Conservative clergyman Raisi set for landslide victory in Iran poll

Ebrahim Raisi, a conservative cleric, was poised for a landslide victory in Iran’s presidential election that would give regime extremists full control over all branches of state for the first time in nearly a decade.

by Raisi two main rivals conceded on Saturday and praised the 60-year-old who many Iranians say is the preferred candidate for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Official results of Friday’s vote, in which Raisi ran against Mohsen Rezaei, a Tory general and only reformist candidate Abdolnaser Hemmati, were expected later on Saturday.

The cleric’s victory means hard-line supporters, who won a large majority in parliamentary elections last year and control the judiciary and military, are now at their highest level since 2013. Reformists, who are in favor of greater engagement with the West, were pushed aside. .

The election came at a critical time for the Islamic Republic and the region. The Biden administration seeks to ease tensions in the Middle East, which were exacerbated by Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to unilaterally withdraw the United States from the nuclear deal with Iran and impose sanctions on the United States. nation.

Raisi said his government would continue negotiations with the other signatories to the agreement – the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China.

But extremists will want to negotiate on their own terms as the second and final term of President Hassan Rouhani’s centrist government ends in August. The election of Raisi, who has led the judiciary for two years and was subject to sanctions by the Trump administration in 2019 because he targeted dozens of senior regime officials, risks complicating these talks.

Raisi’s victory means Iran will be even less likely to curb its support for militant groups in the region or curb its massive missile program.

President Joe Biden has vowed to join the nuclear deal if Tehran fully complies with the deal. But his administration is under pressure from US politicians, Israel and Washington’s Arab partners to take a hard line on Iran’s support for the militias and its missile program.

Raisi said domestic policies would be his priority. He faces the daunting task of reviving an economy crippled by sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic, escalating social pressures and a deep sense of disillusionment with the theocratic system among many Iranians.

The schisms in society were highlighted by the participation.

Iranian media reported that the conservatives voted in large numbers. But Iranians who want reform have registered their disillusion with the theocratic system by staying at home, in what pro-democracy activists have called an act of civil disobedience.

Low turnout would undermine the popular legitimacy that Iranian leaders seek to claim in elections at a time when the gap between the regime’s ideology and policies and the aspirations of the young population is widening.

Conservative analysts said Raisi would likely be closer to Khamenei’s thinking than Rouhani, who wanted to use the nuclear deal to reconnect with the West before Trump imposes his “maximum pressure” campaign.

Unlike his predecessor, Raisi will not attempt to diminish the role of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, who dominate military operations abroad and control a sprawling economic empire at home.

“Raisi’s track record in the judiciary shows us that he is obedient to those above him but very strict with those under him,” said one reformist politician.

“Two good years in the bench are like a period of pink engagement. Now it’s like after marriage that comes with all the realities and disappointments.

Raisi made few comments on foreign policy and said he would focus on increasing Iran’s industrial production and easing economic pressures on the Iranians.

Conservatives hope he will bring unity to the ruling system after Rouhani’s last term was marred by bitter internal clashes. Trump’s hostility to Iran emboldened hard-line supporters who criticized the centrist government and its Reform supporters for trusting the United States.

But reformers fear that the victory of the extremists will exacerbate the country’s problems and dampen lingering hopes for gradual reform.

“Reformers must prepare for a difficult political era. . . and not succumb to this result, ”said Abbas Abdi, a reformist commentator.

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