Iran election: What to expect from a hardline president

Ultraconservative tipped to win as Iran elects president

A close Khamenei ally and like him a harsh critic of the West, Raisi is under US sanctions for alleged involvement in executions of political prisoners decades ago. The paper ballots were being counted overnight and the result is expected by around noon (0730 GMT).

Initially, there were seven candidates for the presidential post in Iran, but only four have continued to compete for the position.

Three of the vetted candidates dropped out of the race two days before Friday's election, and two of them threw their support behind Raisi.

But the election of an Iranian head of government now under United States sanctions could alarm Washington and liberal Iranians, analysts of Iranian politics said, especially given President Joe Biden's sharpened focus on human rights globally.

Raisi's main rival is a pragmatist technocrat, former central bank governor Abdolnaser Hemmati, who says a win for any hardliner will result in yet more sanctions imposed by outside powers. If no clear victor emerges, a runoff will be held next Friday.

Pictures of often flag-waving voters dominated state TV coverage, but away from the polling stations some voiced anger at what they saw as a stage-managed election.

"I congratulate. Ebrahim Raisi, elected by the nation", Ghazizadeh-Hashemi said. "They organise the elections for the media".

Enthusiasm was dampened further by spiralling inflation and job losses, and the Covid pandemic that proved more deadly in Iran than anywhere else in the region, killing more than 80,000 people by the official count.

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It's election day in Iran and for many, the question is not who to vote for, but whether to vote at all.

Khamenei hopes a victorious Raisi will help clean up some of the systemic corruption in Iran's power structures, said Prague-based Iranian journalist Behnam Gholipour, speaking to VOA Persian.

A few months later, Washington sanctioned him for alleged human rights violations, including the executions of political prisoners in 1980s and the suppression of unrest in 2009, events in which he played a part, according to human rights groups.

Iranian state-approved pollsters had predicted before the election that the turnout percentage could end up in the low 40s, which would mark a record low for a presidential election since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, in which its ruling Shiite clerics seized power from a collapsing monarchy. The previous low turnout was 50% in 1993. Tehran accepted those limits in return for relief from global sanctions as part of a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

But high hopes for greater prosperity were crushed in 2018 when then-US president Donald Trump withdrew from the accord and launched a "maximum pressure" sanctions campaign against Iran.

While Iran has insisted its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only, Trump accused it of secretly seeking the bomb and of destabilizing the wider Middle East through armed proxy groups.

Analysts said much of Iran's electorate appeared disenchanted with their Islamist rulers for mismanaging an economy ravaged by USA sanctions, a prolonged pandemic and official corruption.

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