Polls open in Iran run-off presidential election

Written by on July 6, 2024

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(LONDON) — Polls opened Friday in Iran for the run-off presidential election as none of the four candidates won more than 50% of the votes in the first round on June 28.

Lawmaker Masoud Pezeshkian, a reformist, and former nuclear negotiator for Iran, Saeed Jalili, a conservative, found their way to the top of the ballots with Pezeshkian leading but still not solidifying a majority.

Once known as rivals in the Islamic Republic’s political scene, Iranian reformists and the conservative party used to convince people to cast their votes for them by advocating for different and competing plans, stoking emotions and encouraging large voter turnout.

However, the first round of this election had the lowest turnout in the 45-year history of the theocratic regime, with official statistics saying only 40% of the eligible voters had cast their votes, though even that number is largely disputed by analysts who believe the real turnout was much lower.

The turnout is seen as a disappointing result for the country as the Islamic Republic leadership has repeatedly used election turnouts as a major indicator to prove its legitimacy on the international scene and within diplomatic negotiations.

However, even the reformist candidate, Pezeshkian, along with many activists and former and current political prisoners and families of victims of the last decades of Islamic Republic ruling, has been advocating for boycotting this election, saying there is no fundamental difference between the two parties and no change can be expected from either of them.

Some remarks of Pezeshkian have specifically been highlighted by advocates for election boycott, including his reference to execution and his background in implementing compulsory hijab rules against women.

“I will withdraw from the elections if Mr. Jalili promises he would get executed if he does not achieve the 8% growth in his government,” Pezeshkian said recently in a TV debate.

While the reference was described as “irresponsible” and “careless” by users on social media — and even some of his supporters who believe any form of execution must be banned — he later posted it on his X account.

However, Pezeshkian’s supporters believe that if his conservative rival wins, even the smallest possibility of any political changes that could ease people’s livelihoods would be lost due to Jalili’s role in leading the Islamic Republic nuclear negotiation team from 2007 through 2013 when the country faced many international sanctions because of its nuclear activities.

The snap election was called after the late President Ebrahim Raisi was killed in a helicopter crash on May 19 and, according to the country’s constitution, upon the death of a president, the next president must be elected within 50 days.

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