July 24, 2024

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Iran Elections: Hardliners Face Reformists in Presidential Runoff

Iran Elections: Hardliners Face Reformists in Presidential Runoff

Image source, Stock struggle

Comment on the photo, Dr. Masoud Pezeshkian (left) advances against Saeed Jalili (right)

  • author, Tom Bennett
  • Role, BBC News

Voting began today to elect a new Iranian president, with a hardline conservative and a reformist contender competing.

The runoff comes after no candidate won a majority in the first round of the election on June 28, which saw a historically low turnout of 40%.

Among them is Dr. Masoud Pezeshkian, a former heart surgeon who is critical of Iran’s notorious morality police — but whose rival, Saeed Jalili, prefers the status quo.

The elections were called after former Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was killed in a helicopter crash last May, which also killed seven others.

Dr. Pezeshkian caused a stir after promising “unity and cohesion” and an end to Iran’s “isolation” from the world.

He called for “constructive negotiations” with Western powers on renewing the faltering 2015 nuclear deal in which Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from Western sanctions.

Mr Jalili, a former nuclear negotiator who has strong support among Iran’s most devout religious communities, is known for his hardline anti-Western stance and opposition to restoring the nuclear deal, which he says crossed Iran’s “red lines”.

In order to run, candidates had to pass a vetting process run by the Guardian Council, a body of 12 clerics and jurists who wield significant power in Iran.

The Guardian Council has previously been criticized by human rights groups for disqualifying candidates who are not loyal enough to the regime.

Comment on the photo, Former heart surgeon Dr. Masoud Pezeshkian has been described as an unlikely candidate.

After years of civil unrest — culminating in anti-regime protests that rocked the country in 2022 and 2023 — many young and middle-class Iranians have no faith in the establishment and have previously refused to vote.

With turnout in the first round at its lowest since the 1979 Iranian revolution, voter apathy could be a deciding factor in the runoff.

A Persian hashtag has been trending on Iranian social media, calling on people not to vote for any of the candidates and describing anyone who does as a “traitor.”

But Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected suggestions that the low turnout represented a rejection of his rule.

There are reasons [behind the low turnout] “Those who didn’t vote will study these facts, but if anyone thinks that those who didn’t vote are against the establishment, they are completely wrong,” he said.

Comment on the photo, Anti-regime protests sweep Iran in 2022-2023

In a rare move, Khamenei acknowledged that some Iranians do not accept the current regime. “We listen to them and we know what they say, it is not as if they are hidden and invisible,” he said.

In Iran, local media encouraged people to vote.

The Hamshahri daily, affiliated with the Tehran municipality, ran an article titled “100 reasons to vote,” while the Jam-e Jam daily, run by the state broadcaster IRIB, said Iran was “waiting for the people.”

Preliminary election results are expected to be announced by Saturday morning.