The Sunday Telegraph
Hardline cleric elected as Iranian president
Apathy and irritation greet new leader with more than a tenth of votes spoilt and claims of election rigging
‘The great winner of yesterday’s elections is the Iranian nation because it has risen up once again in the face of propaganda’
‘It is not easy to make a choice between the bad and the worst – I just made a choice’
IRAN’S supreme leader declared a “victory” for the country after the election of a hardline cleric as president saw anti-Western conservatives cement control of all branches of power for the first time in a decade.
Ebrahim Raisi, 60, was declared president elect yesterday after taking more than 62 per cent of votes.
But his landslide was marred by low turnout amid voter apathy and anger at what many saw as transparent rigging. Turnout was 48.8 per cent, with spoilt votes outweighing those won by either of Raisi’s closest rivals.
The result was a rout for the reformist camp represented by outgoing president Hassan Rouhani, who had advocated re-engagement with the West but failed to deliver economic renewal after Donald Trump pulled out of a nuclear deal in 2018.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, thanked the public for standing up to what he described as foreign powers trying to stop people voting.
“The great winner of yesterday’s elections is the Iranian nation because it has risen up once again in the face of the propaganda of the enemy’s mercenary media,” he tweeted.
Preliminary results gave Mr Raisi 17.9 million of 28.9 million votes. His nearest rival was Mohsen Rezaei, who took 3.3 million – less than the 3.7 million ballots that were deemed spoilt.
Abdolnaser Hemmati, who had hoped to channel moderate and reformist voters, took 2.4 million in a rejection of the moderate establishment. Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, a conservative MP, took one million.
The mood on the streets of Tehran was muted yesterday, with many of those who voted for Mr Raisi hoping that he might deliver the economic revival which Mr Rouhani failed to.
“It is not easy to make a choice between the bad and the worst – I just made a choice,” said Ramin, a man in his 30s who voted for Mr Raisi. “Whoever was elected, we would be hoping that things would somehow get better.”
Others declared indifference. “We had no candidate. The people on the ballot were chosen by a higher political power,” said 33-year-old Nimon.
Mr Raisi, 60, is a judge and ultra-conservative cleric seen as a protégé of Mr Khamenei. His rise has prompted speculation that he may succeed the 82-year-old as supreme leader.
Amnesty International called his election victory “a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran”.
Mr Raisi has promised to concentrate on domestic affairs, including fixing the moribund economy. His supporters, including dozens of women in black chadors waving Iranian flags, gathered for a victory rally on Imam Hossein square in east Tehran on Friday
The crowd of up to 4,000 chanted “President Raisi! Blindness in the eyes of the BBC!” and cheered promises that the new president would crack down on nepotism.
Mr Raisi did not show up. The BBC is a common target of anti-Western rhetoric in the country.