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Sunday , September 26 2021

Raisi wins landslide in low turnout


KUWAIT CITY, June 19, (Agencies): His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah sent Saturday a cable of congratulations to Ebrahim Raisi, the newly-elected president of Iran. In the cable, His Highness expressed sincere congratulations on Raisi’s victory, wishing him further success and wellness, as well as for the friendly Islamic Republic to further progress and prosper. His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah sent similar cables to the president-elect. The hard-line judiciary chief won a landslide victory Saturday in the country’s presidential election, a vote that both propelled the supreme leader’s protege into Tehran’s highest civilian position and saw the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history.

Ebrahim Raisi, a candidate in Iran’s presidential elections, speaks to the media after casting his vote at a polling station in Tehran, June 18. (AP)

The election of Ebrahim Raisi, already sanctioned by the U.S. in part over his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, became more of a coronation after his strongest competition found themselves disqualified from running. That sparked calls for a boycott and many apparently did stay home – out of over 59 million eligible voters, only 28.9 million voted. Of those voting, some 3.7 million people either accidentally or intentionally voided their ballots, far beyond the amount seen in previous elections and suggesting some wanted none of the four candidates. Iranian state television immediately blamed challenges of the coronavirus pandemic and U.S. sanctions for the low participation. But the low turnout and voided ballots suggested a wider unhappiness with the tightly controlled election, as activists criticized Raisi’s ascension.

“That Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran,” Amnesty International’s Secretary- General Agnes Callamard said. In official results, Raisi won 17.9 million votes overall, nearly 62% of the total 28.9 million cast. Had the voided ballots gone to a candidate, that person would have come in second place. Following Raisi was former hardline Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei with 3.4 million votes. Former Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati, a moderate viewed as a stand-in for outgoing President Hassan Rouhani in the election, came in third with 2.4 million votes. Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi was last with just under 1 million. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, who gave the results, did not explain the high number of voided ballots. Elections in 2017 and 2012 saw some 1.2 million voided ballots apiece. Iran does not allow international election observers to monitor its polls.

While Iran does not have mandatory voting, those casting ballots do receive stamps showing they voted on their birth certificates. Some worry that could affect their ability to apply for jobs and scholarships, or to hold onto their positions in the government or the security forces. Hemmati, like the three other candidates, conceded even before the results were released. “I hope your administration provides causes for pride for the Islamic Republic of Iran, improves the economy and life with comfort and welfare for the great nation of Iran,” he wrote on Instagram.

Abroad, Syrian President Bashar Assad immediately congratulated Raisi’s win. Iran has been instrumental in seeing Assad hold onto the presidency amid his country’s decade-long grinding war. Separate congratulations came from Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who also serves as the vice president and prime minister of the hereditarily ruled United Arab Emirates. The UAE has been trying to de-escalate tensions with Iran since a series of attacks on shipping off its coast in 2019 that the U.S. Navy blamed on Iran. Also congratulating Raisi was Oman, which has served as an interlocutor between Tehran and the West. Rouhani, who in 2017 dismissed Raisi as an opponent in his re-election as someone only knowing about “executions and imprisoning” people, met the cleric Saturday and congratulated him. “I hope I can respond well to the people’s confidence, vote and kindness during my term,” Raisi said.

The US has said that “meaningful progress” has been achieved amid ongoing international talks aimed at reviving the nuclear deal with Iran, referred to as the JCPOA, which Washington pulled out of during the Trump presidency. “We have been able to achieve some progress but challenges remain and I will just say that we will continue to work on this,” US State Department spokesperson Ned Price told reporters. “Talks will continue on the nuclear steps that Iran will be required to take as well as the sanctions relief that we would be prepared to undertake if we are able to negotiate a mutual return to compliance with the JCPOA.” The US official said reaching a deal, during the sixth round of the talks, was not bound by a specific time frame, but he expressed keenness towards striking an agreement.

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