Quiet start to Iran election seen as abandoned conclusion
Tehran, Iran – The presidential election campaign in Iran officially started on Friday, without fanfare and in an atmosphere of indifference, as many say the outcome is a given.
In the streets of the capital Tehran, for the moment, occasional posters urge the Iranians to vote on June 18 with “one voice”, for the future of an “eternal Iran”.
Hamidreza, a 41-year-old engineer, said he was hesitant to vote at this time.
“I don’t even know if I’ll vote or not,” he said.
Like others AFP spoke to, he declined to provide his last name.
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The vote comes amid widespread discontent with a deep economic and social crisis, and after the violent crackdown on waves of protests in winter 2017-2018 and in 2019.
Only two reformist candidates, neither with broad national appeal, face five ultra-conservative runners.
Hamid, a 52-year-old insurance agent, said he had already made his choice: ultra-conservative justice chief Ebrahim Raisi.
Raisi “has done a really good job in the justice system and has done a good job in fighting corruption,” Hamid said.
The Islamic Republic’s Candidate Selection Guardian Council this week approved seven candidates for election from a pool of around 600 candidates.
The council – an unelected body dominated by conservatives – disqualified moderate conservative Ali Larijani and first vice president Eshaq Jahangiri, as well as flamboyant former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
This decision appears to have paved the way for a solid run from Raisi.
But it has also sparked a flood of criticism against the Guardian Council and is expected to lead to an increase in voter abstention.
“I’d rather not vote than make the wrong choice, or have to choose between the worst and the worst,” said Arezou, a private sector worker.
Larijani, advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and former speaker of parliament, was seen as the only person capable of challenging Raisi, according to local media.
Raisi won 38% of the vote in the 2017 presidential election, but was defeated by outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, who is constitutionally prohibited from running for a third consecutive term.
Rouhani, a moderate who ruled with the support of reformists and also moderate conservatives like Larijani, has been a proponent of detente with the West and ending Iran’s international isolation.
Instead, Iran was plunged into a deep recession after former US President Donald Trump torpedoed the signing of Rouhani, the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that offered sanctions relief in return for Tehran’s pledge never to acquire an atomic weapon.
The deal galvanized the ultra-conservative opposition.
But with negotiations underway in Vienna to relaunch the deal, he is unlikely to be the focus of the election campaign.
Supreme Leader Khamenei, who endorsed continued nuclear talks to get sanctions lifted, removed the issue from the equation for candidates, urging them instead to campaign on economic issues such as youth unemployment .