Ebrahim Raisi, ultra-conservative judiciary chief, set to win Iran's presidential election

Ebrahim Raisi, ultra-conservative judiciary chief, set to win Iran's presidential election

Mohammad, 40, an engineer, said he would not vote because "the results are known beforehand and more important, if Mr. Raisi was serious about tackling corruption he should have done so by now".

Earlier, Iran's semi-official Fars news agency reported that 37% of the country's 59 million eligible voters had cast ballots by 7:30 p.m. local time. There was no confirmation of that tally from the Interior Ministry, which was managing the election.

"Because it has not been officially announced yet, I will delay the official congratulations".

Voters queue at a polling station during the presidential elections in Tehran, Iran, June 18, 2021.

After a lacklustre campaign, low turnout was expected in a country exhausted by a punishing regime of United States economic sanctions that has dashed the hopes of many for a brighter future. A polling station was set up by Soleimani's grave on Friday. Iranian state TV showed close-ups of voting lines at some sites as leading political figures implored people to vote.

On Saturday, outgoing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Raisi to offer his congratulations.

"I believe the low turnout will lead to a worsening crisis of legitimacy for the Iranian regime", said Ladan Boroumand, a director of US -based rights group Abdorrahman Boroumand Center, in a VOA Persian TV interview on Friday. Iran will be a more closed society. "This stance is a big no to the Islamic republic", she said. Three of the vetted candidates dropped out of the race two days before Friday's election, and two of them quickly threw their support behind Raisi.

If none of them wins an outright majority, a runoff election would be held one week later.

With counting continuing, state TV said Mr Raisi had so far received 62% of the vote - almost 18 million of more than 28 million votes cast. Former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also blocked from running, said on social media he'd boycott the vote.

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Opinion polling by state-linked organizations, along with analysts, indicated that judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi - who already is under USA sanctions - was the front-runner in a field of only four candidates.

Iran is run according to conservative religious values, and there have been curbs on political freedoms since its Islamic Revolution in 1979. But in Iran's political system it is the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the top religious cleric, who has the final say on all state matters. All the approved presidential candidates backed his decision to engage in indirect talks with the U.S.in Vienna in recent months in the hope of reaching a deal for an easing of US sanctions on the Iranian economy. "Regardless of the outcome, we will continue discussions along with our allies and partners on a mutual return to compliance with the (nuclear deal)".

He will replace President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate whose government signed the 2015 nuclear accord with the USA and other world powers, and later, was subjected to the Trump administration's "maximum pressure campaign" aimed at crippling Iran's economy using sanctions and other measures.

The US pulled out of the deal in 2018, and President Trump's administration re-imposed crippling limits on Iran's ability to trade.

Trump said the JCPOA did not do enough to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons - a goal it denies having - or engaging in other objectionable activities.

A win for Raisi would confirm the political demise of pragmatist politicians like Rouhani, weakened by the US decision to quit the nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions in a move that stifled rapprochement with the West.

"But because Iran's foreign policy, especially relating to the US, is the exclusive domain of Khamenei, whoever becomes the next president is likely to follow the same long-established rules", Rezaei said.

Felicitating Raeisi, Hemmati hoped that the next government will lead to the pride of the Islamic Republic and create a peaceful life for the Iranian nation.

Khamenei appointed Raisi judiciary chief in 2019.

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