More than 59 million qualified voters in Iran will determine the fate of the four candidates in the race to succeed President Hasan Rouhani.
Fearing low turnout, Ebrahim Raisi, the head of the conservative judiciary, is widely regarded as the leader, and opinion polls for the Iranian presidential election have begun.
Iran’s nearly 60 million qualified voters will determine the fate of the four candidates in the race to succeed President Hassan Rouhani. A group led by Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei banned hundreds of candidates, including reformists and those allied with Rouhani.
Voting starts at 7 am local time and ends in 1930 GMT, but can be extended by two hours. The result is expected around noon on Saturday.
Due to the uncertainty surrounding Iran’s efforts to revive its 2015 nuclear agreement and the growing poverty in the country after years of US sanctions, Iranian analysts see the vote turnout as a referendum on the leadership’s handling of a series of crises.
After voting in the capital Tehran, Khamenei said: “Every vote is important… to vote for your president… This is important to the future of your country.”
National television shows that there are long lines outside polling stations in several cities.
State-related polls and analysts named the 60-year-old hardline judicial director Rethy as the front runner. If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the US government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticised judiciary – one of the The world’s top executioner.
Wearing a black headscarf, Raisi indicated in Shia tradition that he was a direct descendant of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and later voted in a mosque in southern Tehran, waving to those who gathered to vote.
Raisi’s victory will confirm the political demise of Rouhani and other pragmatic politicians. The United States has decided to withdraw from the nuclear agreement and re-impose sanctions to stifle reconciliation with the West.
But Iranian officials said that this will not affect Iran’s efforts to restore the agreement and get rid of severe oil and financial sanctions, because the country’s ruling elite realizes that their political destiny depends on coping with worsening economic difficulties.
Former Central Bank Governor Abdolnasser Hemmati ran for the election as a moderate candidate, but did not receive the same support as the outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, who has a limited term and cannot run for another election.
Tensions between the United States and Israel remain high, and they are believed to have carried out a series of attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities and assassinated the scientists who created their military atomic program decades ago.