Iranians return to polls to choose new president amid concerns over voter turnout | Election News

The runoff election to decide who will succeed Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash in May, will pit centrist Massoud Pezechkian against hardline candidate Said Jalili.

Iranians are once again heading to the polls for a presidential runoff election pitting centrist Massoud Pezeshkian against hardline candidate Saeed Jalili to replace Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash in May.

Friday’s second round of voting, held after neither candidate won a majority in the June 28 vote, saw Pezeshkian win around 42.5 percent of the vote and Jalili around 38.7 percent.

The election comes amid rising regional tensions fuelled by Israel’s Gaza war, a standoff between Iran and the West over its nuclear programme, growing discontent with a sanctions-hit economy and disillusionment after deadly protests in 2022-2023.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, cast his vote as polling stations opened at 8am (4.30am GMT), state television said.

“Today is a good day to vote,” the president said in his speech, urging people to go vote.

“We will choose the right candidate. At this stage, the people should make further efforts to elect a president by tomorrow.”

Just 40% of Iran’s 61 million eligible voters turned out in June, the lowest turnout in a presidential election since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

NDMT’s Resul Serdar, reporting from Tehran, said one poll released just before the second round of voting had shown Pezeshkian was likely to win, but that ultimately both sides expected him to win.

“But there are suggestions that the polls leading up to last week’s election were botched, so we could see another surprise today. The biggest concern here is voter turnout.”

Low voter turnout

Khamenei said joining the first round was “not as expected” but that it was not an act “against the regime.”

Conservative Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf came in third with 13.8 percent of the vote in last week’s vote, while Islamist leader Mostafa Pourmohammadi received less than 1 percent.

Elections were originally scheduled for 2025 but were brought forward following Raisi’s death.

The runoff candidates held two debates, discussing Iran’s economic problems, international relations, low voter turnout and internet restrictions.

Pezeshkian, 69, said Tuesday that Iranians are “fed up with their living conditions and unhappy with the way their government is running things.” He called for “constructive relations” with the United States and European countries to “bring Iran out of isolation.”

Mr Jalili, 58, rallied a large base of hardline supporters and also won the backing of Mr Ghalibaf and two other conservative candidates who withdrew from the election before the first round.

He argues that Iran does not need the abandoned nuclear deal with the United States and other world powers to move forward.

Jalili said that by allowing inspections of nuclear facilities, Iran had violated all of its “red lines,” noting that the 2015 deal had limited Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for lifting sanctions. The accord has been in jeopardy since then-US President Donald Trump withdrew from it in 2018.

Jalili has held several senior positions, including in Khamenei’s office in the early 2000s, and currently serves as one of Khamenei’s representatives on the Supreme National Security Council, Iran’s top security body.

Whatever the outcome, Iran’s next president will be responsible for implementing national policies set by the supreme leader, who holds ultimate authority in the country.

Follow our election updates here.

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