July 24, 2024

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Iran holds vote to choose president

Iran holds vote to choose president

As voting continued in Iran’s presidential election on Friday, initial estimates from campaign officials showed that only about 40 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots. The low turnout was a potential blow to the ruling clerics, who have used turnout as a sign of their legitimacy and had hoped for a 50 percent turnout, compared with about 70 percent in previous presidential elections.

Hafez Hakami, campaign manager for the sole reformist candidate, Dr. Masoud Pezeshkian, confirmed in a phone call after the polls closed that the turnout was lower than expected.

He said: “We were already expecting a participation of more than 50 percent, but unfortunately the social mood for voting was still bad, and it was not possible to convince people to go to the polls.”

After years of economic hardship and severe restrictions on personal and social freedoms, many Iranians say they are fed up with empty promises made by politicians who are unwilling or unable to deliver. For some voters, refusing to vote was the only way to reject the government.

“The rift between the government and its people is dangerous,” said Omid Memarian, a human rights activist and senior analyst at DAWN, a research organization in Washington. “From university students to women to political prisoners to those who lost loved ones during the nationwide protests of 2022, there was consensus that Iran needs far greater changes than the regime is proposing.

“People are tired of having to choose between bad, worse and worse,” he added.

In the capital, Tehran, there were reports of some polling stations being empty. Mahdia, 41, who gave only her first name for fear of the authorities, said: “The polling station where I voted today was empty.” “I voted without wearing a hijab,” she added, referring to the rules requiring women to wear a head covering in Iran.

But in the central and southern parts of the capital, where the government has more voters, voters stood in lines as voting hours were extended until midnight.

Milad, 22, from Karaj, a city on the outskirts of the capital, said he had changed his mind about not voting and was planning to vote for Dr. Massoud.

“Most Iranians are against extremism and radicalism. Now that we have a candidate who represents a different path, I want to give him a chance,” he said.

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The vote to choose a successor to President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash in May, comes at a perilous time for the country. The next president will face a series of challenges, including discontent and divisions at home, a struggling economy and a volatile region that has brought Iran to the brink of war twice this year.

The final result may not be known until tomorrow, but analysts expect it to be inconclusive, with none of the three main candidates getting the 50% needed to avoid a runoff.

An opinion poll conducted by Iranian state television before the elections showed that the votes were split equally between conservative candidates Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf and Saeed Jalili, with each receiving about 16 percent. The reformist candidate, Dr. Pezeshkian, received about 23%. Analysts say that if this continues, there will be a runoff election on July 5 between prominent reformists and conservatives.

This outcome could have been avoided if a Conservative had withdrawn. But in the midst of a bitter public conflict, neither Mr. Ghalibaf, a former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who is now speaker of parliament, nor Mr. Jalili, a hardliner on domestic and foreign policy, has budged. Of the two, Mr. Ghalibaf is seen as the more pragmatic.

In the latest polls, Mr. Pezeshkian has the most support of any candidate, but is still far short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. Speaking to reporters after casting his vote in Rey, just southeast of Tehran, Dr. Pezeshkian said: “I came for Iran. I came to address the deprived areas and listen to the voices of those who have not received their rights,” according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

Mostafa Pourmohammadi, a cleric who has previously held senior intelligence positions, is also running, but his candidacy has not resonated with public opinion and opinion polls indicate that he is likely to receive less than 1% of the vote. Pourmohammadi had warned throughout his election campaign that the Islamic Republic had lost the people and that the turnout rate in the elections would pose a major challenge.

Polling stations opened their doors at 8 a.m. Friday local time, and are expected to continue until late into the night to encourage more participation.

Casting his vote as polls opened on Friday morning, Khamenei urged Iranians to vote for the country, regardless of who they support, portraying it as a matter of civic duty that would bring the country “dignity and credit” in the election. Eyes of the world.

“This is a big political test for the nation, and I know some people have doubts and haven’t decided what to do yet,” he said. “But I can tell them it’s important, it has a lot of benefits, so why not?”

But it seems that his calls fell on deaf ears. Iranian elections are strictly controlled, with a committee of appointed clerics and jurists vetting all candidates, as well as intense government efforts to intimidate opposition voices in the media. In addition, almost all major decisions taken by the state in Iran are taken by Mr. Khamenei, especially in the field of foreign and nuclear policy.

As a result, many Iranians appear to have continued the boycott that began with the last major election, either in protest or because they do not believe real change can come through the ballot box.

Four young women studying psychology at Tehran University, who were buying cosmetics from Tajrish Bazaar in northern Iran on Wednesday, showed a flavor of this discontent. Although they described themselves as disturbed by the situation in Iran, they said they did not plan to vote.

We cannot do anything about this situation; “We have no hope except in ourselves,” said Sohgand, 19, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of the authorities. “But we want to stay in Iran to make it better for our children.”

She was wearing black pants and a tight jacket, leaving her brown hair exposed. But she also had a scarf wrapped around her shoulders in case an official asked her to wear one. As for the rules requiring women to wear the hijab, she simply added: “We hate it.”

On Friday, the mosaic-covered Hosseiniyeh Ershad Seminary, a religious seminary in Tehran, was packed at midday as people lined up to cast their votes.

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Among them is Nima Saberi, 30, who said she supports the reformist. “We believe that everyone will unite thanks to Mr. Pezeshkian,” she said. “He is a reasonable person, not an extremist, and respects people from all walks of life.”

Mr. Saberi, along with others at the institute, emphasized that they appreciated Mr. Pezishkian’s commitment to fighting corruption and establishing “better relations with the world,” a euphemism often used to ease tensions with the West in order to lift sanctions.

Analysts said the televised debates, in which the candidates were surprisingly vocal in criticizing the status quo, showed that the economy, which is suffering from US sanctions as well as corruption and mismanagement, is a top priority for voters and candidates.

Analysts say the economy cannot be fixed without addressing foreign policy, including the standoff with the United States over Iran’s nuclear program and concerns about Iranian military interference in the region through its network of proxy armed groups.

“Instead of radical change, elections may produce smaller, if important, shifts,” says Vali Nasr, professor of international affairs and Middle Eastern studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. “Voices that are in charge and want a different direction may push the Islamic Republic back.” about some of her positions.

Although apathy remains high in most urban areas, voters in provinces with large Azerbaijani Turks and Kurds were expected to turn out in larger numbers to vote for Dr. Pezeshkian. He himself is an Azerbaijani Turk and served as a member of parliament for the city of Tabriz, a major economic center in the East Azerbaijan province located in the northwest of the country. Dr. Pezishkian has delivered campaign speeches in his native Turkish and Kurdish languages.

At a rally in Tabriz on Wednesday, the doctor received a folk hero’s welcome, as the stadium filled with crowds chanting a Turkish patriotic song, according to videos and news reports. Ethnic and religious minorities are rarely represented in senior positions in Iran, so the nomination of one of them for the presidency has sparked interest and enthusiasm at the regional level, Azerbaijani activists say.

Lily Nikunzar He contributed reporting from Tehran.