06/17/2021, 14.59
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Tehran, presidential elections overshadowed by abstention and Raisi's probable victory

Favoured by the former head of the judiciary and a loyalist of Khamenei. The supreme guide against those who intend to desert the polls, "one of the worst and deadliest sins". The nuclear issue among the priorities of the future leader. Feelings of apathy, distrust and disillusionment predominate among the voters.

Tehran (AsiaNews) - The victory of the ultra-conservative exponent Ebrahim Raisi and the risk of strong abstention, especially among young people, who do not feel represented by any of the six remaining candidates are overshadowing tomorrow’s elections.

Moreover the supreme Shiite leader, the great ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has entered the foray with a sort of fatwa (religious edict) in which he ruled that it is a "grave sin" not to exercise one's right - and duty - as an elector.

The internal match for the conservatives have a predictable outcome, so much so that the outgoing leader Hassan Rouhani himself had asked for "more competition".

The main issue remains is abstention, which according to some polls could exceed the record figure of 57% recorded last year in parliamentarians. Calls for a boycott have multiplied and the student polling agency itself, linked to the state apparatus, expects a turnout of 42% out of a total of 59 million eligible.

Hence the renewed appeals of the supreme guide to go to the polls, accusing those who abstain, disappointed by the economic and social crisis, of being "enemies of Islam". In response, the opposition abroad has strengthened the campaign on media and social networks according to the hashtag (in Farsi) #noIslamicRepublic. The supreme leader retorted, quoting the founder of the republic and predecessor Ruhollah Khomeini, according to whom in certain circumstances to abstain from voting "is one of the worst and deadliest sins".

For those who will go to the polls, it will be a question of choosing from six candidates who have obtained the green light from the Council of Guardians out of over 600 nominations. There were seven applications accepted, but precisely in these days on the eve of the election, one of the two so-called "moderate / reformist" exponents, Mohsen Mehralizadeh, withdrew.

Analysts and experts take for granted the victory of the ultra-conservative exponent, former head of the judiciary and a loyalist of Khamenei (many consider him his natural successor) Ebrahim Raisi. After two mandates - maximum limit according to the Constitution - of the moderate Rouhani, the nation is destined to turn towards the more radical faction which, in recent years, has often attacked the outgoing president on the direction of government and the economy.

A religious fundamentalist, Raisi had already tried the path to the presidency in 2017, collecting 37% of preferences that was not enough to overcome Rouhani. He is famous for serving on the committee that, since 1988, has sentenced thousands of dissidents, militants and opponents to death after the war with Iraq; even today he boasts close links with the powerful body of the Guardians of the Revolution, the feared "Pasdaran". The only "non-conservative" exponent is 64-year-old Abdolnaser Hemmati, former governor of the Central Bank and former vice-president of state radio-TV. Hemmati is considered a modern technocrat on whom the feeble hopes of victory of reformists and moderates point. In reality, he shouldn't go beyond a narrow 4%, and in any case he does not pose a threat - barring unlikely surprises - for Raisi on whom 60% of preferences converge.

Given the low-tone election campaign, there are many open issues: just to mention a few are the nuclear talks for the full restoration of the 2015 agreement (JCPOA), disavowed in 2018 by former US President Donald Trump. According to various observers, Raisi himself is also interested in the resumption of the nuclear pact, in order to obtain a relaxation of US sanctions, which is essential to relaunch the economy.

Another open question is that of prisoners with dual nationality, a weapon of negotiation with the West, the alliance with Russia and China and the balance in the region, starting from the tensions with Saudi Arabia and the Sunni Islamic world.

Meanwhile, feelings of apathy, mistrust and disillusionment predominate among the voters.

29-year-old Fatemeh Rekabi, an accountant in Tehran, tells the Associated Press (AP) that he does not trust "any candidate" and if the situation worsens "the people will not survive".

50-year-old Loqman Karimi expresses his support for Raisi "not for the promises in the electoral campaign, but for the concrete things he did as head of the judiciary."

Instead 34-year-old Nasrin Hassani asserts "we are at the point where it would be enough to go back to where we were five, six years ago" in the initial aftermath of the nuclear deal. It would seem to regret the populist leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

However, the common desire is to be able to live in a normal country, free from sanctions and not in perennial war with its neighbours, which knows how to offer opportunities to its citizens who are now forced, especially the younger ones, to seek their fortune abroad.


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See also
Tehran, parliamentary elections: thousands of reformist candidates rejected
15/02/2020 09:05
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