Iran election: The Irish Times view

A dubious victory

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei arrives to cast his ballot on on the day of the Islamic republic’s presidential election. File photograph: Getty

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei arrives to cast his ballot on on the day of the Islamic republic’s presidential election. File photograph: Getty

 

Iran’s eighth president will be the ultra-conservative cleric and chief justice Ebrahim Raisi, a close ally of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His “victory” in last Friday’s farce of an election will consolidate the stifling control of the country’s theocratic leadership while perhaps lining him up as a successor for the 81-year-old Khamenei.

With talks under way to restore the Iran nuclear deal, there are also concerns that the new leadership will again apply the brakes to the process.

Raisi, the Robespierre of the Islamic Revolution, is notorious for his involvement as a prosecutor in the execution of thousands of political prisoners in the late 1980s, and is currently under sanction from the US for human rights abuses. He secured nearly 16 million votes in the 2017 presidential election, against the 23.5 million votes for the winner, Hassan Rouhani, but had his election path cleared this time with the disqualification of all but seven of 592 hopefuls by the powerful Guardian Council, a body of jurists and clerics close to Khamenei. Three more withdrew.

Among those disqualified were all 40 women nominees, the current vice-president, a former parliamentary speaker, former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and a former minister. The only mild reformist left in the fray was Abdolnaser Hemmati, the technocratic former head of Iran’s central bank, but most of the opposition called for a poll boycott.

Official results suggest Raisi won with 18 million votes, but there were 4 million spoiled votes and turnout, at 43 per cent, hit an all-time low, which says much more about the credibility of the election than Raisi’s comfortable majority.

His first challenge will be the economy. The poverty rate increased from 11 to 16 per cent over the past two years, pushing 3.7 million more below the line. Iran has been in recession for three years, with inflation at 41 per cent and unemployment, officially 11 per cent, actually closer to 20 per cent. For a worker earning around €60 a month, one kilo of chicken now costs 10 per cent of that salary. More of the same is all they can expect.

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