TEHRAN: Iranians voted Friday in a presidential election in which cleric Ebrahim Raisi is seen as all but certain to coast to victory after all serious rivals were barred from running. After a lacklustre campaign, turnout was expected to plummet to a new low in a country exhausted by a punishing regime of US economic sanctions that has dashed hopes for a brighter future.
The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, cast the first vote in Tehran and then urged Iran´s nearly 60 million eligible voters to follow suit before the scheduled close of polls at midnight (1930 GMT). “The sooner you perform this task and duty, the better,”the 81-year-old Khamenei said, stressing that voting “serves to build the future” of the Iranian people.
But enthusiasm has been dampened by the disqualification of many hopefuls from the race and the deep economic malaise which has sparked spiralling inflation and job losses, the crisis deepened by the Covid pandemic.
“I´m not a politician, I don´t know anything about politics,” said Tehran car mechanic Nasrollah. “I have no money. All families are now facing economic problems. “How can we vote for these people who did this to us? It´s not right.”
Iranian opposition groups abroad and some dissidents at home have urged a boycott of the vote they see as an engineered victory for Raisi, the 60-year-old head of the judiciary, to cement conservative control.
Others queued to vote at schools, mosques and community centres, some carrying Iran´s green, white and red national flag. One conservative mother wearing the black full-body chador came with her two young sons dressed in the camouflage uniforms of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
A nurse named Sahebiyan said she supports Raisi for his pledge to fight corruption and because she hopes he will “move the country forward… and save the people from economic, cultural and social deprivation”