Khamenei Calls on Iranians to Vote for Elections

UMMATIMES - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged voters to attend Friday's presidential election. The presence of voters as a show of strength to reduce foreign pressure on the Islamic Republic.

Two hardliners and one moderate withdrew from the official group of seven candidates on Wednesday. Thus the competition leaves the head of the judiciary and former head of the moderate central bank, Abdolnasser Hemmati.

Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi, 60, an ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is widely considered the favorite to replace Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist who stepped down after two terms.

"In less than 48 hours, an important event will take place in the country... With your presence and your voice, you really decide the fate of the country, in all major issues," Khamenei said in a televised address.

Under Iran's system of government, the supreme leader has the final say over state affairs. Meanwhile the elected president rules the country from day to day.

Last month, the hardline Guardian Council disqualified several leading moderate and conservative candidates, leaving the candidates dominated by hardliners. Abdolnasser Hemmati, who stepped down as head of the central bank to run for office, will compete with Raisi.

On Wednesday that former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and hardline lawmaker Alireza Zakani had resigned would help consolidate the hardline voice behind Raisi.

Mohsen Mehralizadeh, a moderate figure also resigned to give encouragement to Hemmati. Two other conservative candidates remain in the general election, although they could resign or support Raisi before Friday's vote.

Election boycott

The Covid-19 pandemic has sparked fears of low voter turnout. Several prominent pro-reform politicians in Iran and activists abroad have called for a boycott of the election. The hashtag #NoToIslamicRepublic has been tweeted by many Iranians at home and abroad in recent weeks.

Official polls show turnout could be as low as 41 percent, much lower than in previous elections. The election comes as Iran is negotiating in Vienna with world powers to revive the 2015 deal.

US President Joe Biden hopes to revive the agreement, which was abandoned by his predecessor Donald Trump. Although the deal is a historic achievement for President Rouhani, who is about to finish his term in office.

The presidential election is not expected to have a major impact on Iran's negotiating position, set by Khamenei. But a strong mandate for Raisi could strengthen Khamenei's hand at home and influence the search for a successor to the 82-year-old supreme leader, who has been in power for 32 years.

"If a new president is elected with a significant majority of votes, he will become a strong president and can carry out great tasks," Khamenei said. "If we experience a decline in voter turnout, we will have increased pressure from our enemies."