Favorite Ebrahim Raïssi, participation a real issue

In Tehran, voters show their support for the conservative candidate Ebrahim Raïssi. June 16, 2021

A little more than 59 million Iranians are called to the polls this Friday, June 18 to elect their new president for a period of four years. The Council of Guardians of the Constitution, an oversight body responsible for validating candidacies and overseeing elections, selected just seven candidates. Since three have withdrawn, and today, the conservative candidate Ebrahim Raïssi remains the main favorite.

Many political figures, including the former ultraconservative president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former speaker of parliament, Ali Larijani, or the current first vice-president Es-Hagh Jahanguiri have been rejected to everyone’s surprise. Despite protests, the Council refused to reverse its decision. Among the seven candidates, there were two moderates and five conservatives. In the meantime, one of the two moderate candidates and two ultra-conservatives have withdrawn from the race.

There is now the moderate Abdolnasser Hemati, who is supported by some of the reformers and the conservative Ebrahim Raïssi, currently head of the judiciary, who are the two main candidates remaining in the running. There is also Mohsen Rezai, a former leader of the Revolutionary Guards, who has little luck. For the past twenty years, he has been running for all presidential elections.

Abdolnasser Hemati, l’outsider

Ebrahim Raïssi, the conservative candidate leaves favorite. According to the latest polls, he would get more than 62% of the vote in the first round. It is supported by all power. He currently heads the judiciary. He promised to give priority to the most disadvantaged and to the revival of national production.

Externally, he said he was in favor of the nuclear agreement with the great powers while affirming that a strong government was needed to be in a position of strength in the negotiations currently being conducted in Vienna to revive the agreement of 2015.

Facing him, Abdolnasser Hemati, was very combative during the televised debates against the conservatives. But he failed to mobilize all the reformist and moderate parties behind his name. He was president of the Central Bank just a month ago. Its task promises to be difficult. Indeed, it must mobilize the moderate electorate and reformers very disappointed by the economic and social record of the government of President Rouhani. Inflation exceeds 50% and the value of Iranian currency has fallen sharply in recent years due to US sanctions.

Hemati campaigned extensively by waving the scarecrow of total conservative control over all levers of power. If some of the reformers support him, like the former president Mohammad Khatami, other personalities and formations of the reformer camp refused to support him. He needs a broad mobilization of the moderate electorate to prevent the election of Ebrahim Raïssi. But a large part of this electorate should abstain.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei calls for voting

Participation is also an important political game, a real stake for power. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself urged voters not to shy away from the ballot box. He said he understood the discontent of the disadvantaged classes affected by the economic crisis and soaring inflation, but he said the solution was not abstention.

According to a latest poll, only 42% of voters say they are certain to vote. Four years ago the turnout was over 70%. It is a sign of the very broad social and economic discontent.

The challenge of the moderate candidate will be to mobilize the electorate of his camp to obtain at least a second round. It will be necessary to wait for the announcement of the results to know if he will have succeeded in his bet. In the second round, his task will be simpler.

“During the legislative elections last year, abstention had already reached a record with a rate of 57% …”

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