Khamenei’s protege Jalili edges ahead in tight Iran presidential race


This is AI generated summarization, which may have errors. For context, always refer to the full article.

Khamenei’s protege Jalili edges ahead in tight Iran presidential race

IRAN ELECTIONS. Electoral staff count ballots in a polling station after voting ended, in a snap presidential election to choose a successor to Ebrahim Raisi following his death in a helicopter crash, in Tehran, Iran June 29, 2024.

Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

(1st UPDATE) Among more than 10.3 million ballots counted so far, hardline former nuclear negotiator Jalili won more than 4.26 million votes and his low-profile moderate challenger lawmaker Massoud Pezeshkian gained about 4.24 million, says Interior ministry official Mohsen Eslami

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Saeed Jalili, steadfastly loyal to Iran’s supreme leader, pushed slightly ahead of the sole moderate candidate as more votes were counted from a tightly controlled snap presidential election held amid growing public frustration and Western pressure.

Among more than 10.3 million ballots from Friday’s election counted so far, hardline former nuclear negotiator Jalili won more than 4.26 million votes and his low-profile moderate challenger lawmaker Massoud Pezeshkian gained about 4.24 million, Interior ministry official Mohsen Eslami told state TV on Saturday.

Some insiders said the turnout was around 40%, lower than expected by Iran’s clerical rulers, while witnesses told Reuters that polling stations in Tehran and some other cities were not crowded.

Iran’s Tasnim news agency said a run-off election was “very likely” to pick the next president following the death of Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash.

The election coincides with escalating regional tension due to the war between Israel and Iranian allies Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as increased Western pressure on Iran over its fast-advancing nuclear program.

While the election is unlikely to bring a major shift in the Islamic Republic’s policies, its outcome could influence the succession to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s 85-year-old supreme leader, in power since 1989.

The clerical establishment sought a high turnout to offset a legitimacy crisis fueled by public discontent over economic hardship and curbs on political and social freedom.

The next president is not expected to usher in any major policy shift on Iran’s nuclear program or support for militia groups across the Middle East, since Khamenei calls all the shots on top state matters.

However, the president runs the government day-to-day and can influence the tone of Iran’s foreign and domestic policy.

Jalili, a former diplomat, describes himself as a pious believer in “velayat-e faqih,” or rule by supreme jurisprudence, Iran’s system of Islamic government that provides the basis for Khamenei’s paramount position.

Limited choices

Iran’s presidential election is a contest among a tightly controlled group of three hardline candidates and one low-profile moderate loyal to the supreme leader.

A hardline watchdog body approved only six from an initial pool of 80 and two hardline candidates subsequently dropped out.

Pezeshkian is backed by the reformist camp that has been largely sidelined in Iran in recent years.

Critics of Iran’s clerical rule say that low turnouts in recent years show the system’s legitimacy has eroded. Turnout was 48% in the 2021 presidential election and a record low of 41% of people voted in a parliamentary election in March.

“Based on unconfirmed reports, the election is very likely heading to a second round…. Jalili and Pezeshkian will compete in a run-off election,” Tasnim reported.

If no candidate wins at least 50% plus one vote from all ballots cast, including blank votes, a run-off between the top two candidates is held on the first Friday after the result is declared.

All candidates have vowed to revive the flagging economy, beset by mismanagement, state corruption and sanctions re-imposed since 2018, after the United States ditched Tehran’s 2015 nuclear pact with six world powers.

“I think Jalili is the only candidate who raised the issue of justice, fighting corruption and giving value to the poor…. Most importantly, he does not link Iran’s foreign policy to the nuclear deal,” said Farzan, a 45-year-old artist in the city of Karaj.

Divided voters

Pezeshkian is faithful to Iran’s theocratic rule, but advocates detente with the West, economic reform, social liberalization and political pluralism.

“We will respect the hijab law, but there should never be any intrusive or inhumane behavior toward women,” Pezeshkian said after casting his vote.

He was referring to the death of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman, in 2022 while in morality police custody for allegedly violating the mandatory Islamic dress code.

The unrest sparked by Amini’s death spiralled into the biggest show of opposition to Iran’s clerical rulers in years.

Pezeshkian attempted to revive the enthusiasm of reform-minded voters who have largely stayed away from the polls for the last four years as a mostly youthful population chafes at political and social curbs. He could also benefit from his rivals’ failure to consolidate the hardline vote.

“I feel Pezeshkian represents both traditional and liberal thoughts,” said architect Pirouz, 45, who said he had planned to boycott the vote until he learned more about Pezeshkian’s plans.

In the past few weeks, Iranians have made wide use of the hashtag #ElectionCircus on X, with some activists at home and abroad calling for a boycott, saying a high turnout would only serve to legitimise the Islamic Republic.

“The youth were punished…young girls were killed on the streets…. We can’t easily move on from that…. After all that happened, it’s unconscionable to vote,” said 55-year-old writer Shahrzad Afrasheh.

In the 2022/23 protests, more than 500 people including 71 minors were killed, hundreds were injured and thousands arrested, rights groups said. –

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Summarize this article with AI

How does this make you feel?

Download the Rappler App!