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Khamenei protege, sole average neck and neck in Iran presidential race By Reuters

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By Parisa Hafezi

DUBAI (Reuters) -A low-key average and a protege of Iran’s supreme chief are neck-and-neck within the vote rely in snap presidential elections marked by voter apathy over financial hardships and social restrictions.

Greater than 14 million votes have been counted so removed from Friday’s vote, of which the only average candidate Massoud Pezeshkian had received over 5.9 million votes and his hardline challenger former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili over 5.5 million, provisional outcomes by the inside ministry confirmed.

Some insiders stated the turnout was round 40%, decrease than anticipated by Iran’s clerical rulers, whereas witnesses advised Reuters that polling stations in Tehran and another cities weren’t crowded.

Iran’s Tasnim information company stated a run-off election was “very likely” to choose the subsequent president following the demise of Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash final month.

If no candidate wins at the very least 50% plus one vote from all ballots solid, together with clean votes, a run-off between the highest two candidates is held on the primary Friday after the result’s declared.

The election coincides with escalating regional rigidity as a result of warfare between Israel and Iranian allies Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, in addition to elevated Western strain on Iran over its fast-advancing nuclear programme.

Whereas the election is unlikely to deliver a serious shift within the Islamic Republic’s insurance policies, its final result might affect the succession to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s 85-year-old supreme chief, in energy since 1989.

The clerical institution sought a excessive turnout to offset a legitimacy disaster fuelled by public discontent over financial hardship and curbs on political and social freedom.

The following president is just not anticipated to usher in any main coverage shift on Iran’s nuclear programme or assist for militia teams throughout the Center East, since Khamenei calls all of the pictures on high state issues.

Nevertheless, the president runs the federal government day-to-day and may affect the tone of Iran’s overseas and home coverage.

Pezeshkian’s views provide a distinction to these of Jalili, advocating detente with the West, financial reform, social liberalisation and political pluralism.

A staunch anti-Westerner, Jalili’s win would sign the opportunity of an much more antagonistic flip within the Islamic Republic’s overseas and home coverage, analysts stated.

LIMITED CHOICES

The election was a contest amongst a tightly managed group of three hardline candidates and one low-profile average loyal to the supreme chief. A hardline watchdog physique authorised solely six from an preliminary pool of 80 and two hardline candidates subsequently dropped out.

“Based on unconfirmed reports, the election is very likely heading to a second round … Jalili and Pezeshkian will compete in a run-off election,” Tasnim reported.

Critics of the clerical institution say that low turnouts in recent times present the system’s legitimacy has eroded. Turnout was 48% within the 2021 presidential election and a document low of 41% of individuals voted in a parliamentary election in March.

All candidates have vowed to revive the flagging financial system, beset by mismanagement, state corruption and sanctions re-imposed since 2018, after the U.S. ditched Tehran’s nuclear pact.

“I think Jalili is the only candidate who raised the issue of justice, fighting corruption and giving value to the poor. … Most importantly, he does not link Iran’s foreign policy to the nuclear deal,” stated Farzan, a 45-year-old artist within the metropolis of Karaj.

DIVIDED VOTERS

Pezeshkian, trustworthy to Iran’s theocratic rule, is backed by the reformist faction that has largely been sidelined in Iran in recent times.

“We will respect the hijab law, but there should never be any intrusive or inhumane behaviour toward women,” Pezeshkian stated after casting his vote.

He was referring to the demise of Mahsa Amini, a younger Kurdish girl, in 2022 whereas in morality police custody for allegedly violating the necessary Islamic costume code.

The unrest sparked by Amini’s demise spiralled into the largest present of opposition to Iran’s clerical rulers in years.

Pezeshkian tried to revive the keenness of reform-minded voters who’ve largely stayed away from the polls for the final 4 years as a largely youthful inhabitants chafes at political and social curbs. He might additionally profit from his rivals’ failure to consolidate the hardline vote.

Previously few weeks, Iranians have made extensive use of the hashtag #ElectionCircus on X, with some activists at dwelling and overseas calling for a boycott, saying a excessive turnout would solely serve to legitimise the Islamic Republic.

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