Iranians choose a president on Friday in a contest likely to be won by a judge fiercely loyal to the religious establishment, although large numbers of people are expected to ignore the vote due to discontent with economic hardship and hardline rule. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cast his vote early on Friday morning in Tehran and encouraged people to go the polls.
“Each vote counts … come and vote and choose your president,” he said. “This is important for the future of your country”. With uncertainty surrounding Iran’s efforts to revive its 2015 nuclear deal, and growing poverty at home after years of US sanctions, voter turnout is seen by Iranian analysts as a referendum on the leadership’s handling of an array of crises. Hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, 60, a close ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is favourite to succeed the incumbent Hassan Rouhani, forbidden under the constitution from serving a third four-year term. Opinion polls suggest Ebrahim Raisi, a conservative Shia cleric who heads the judiciary, is the clear favourite. A win for the Shi’ite cleric would confirm the political demise of pragmatist politicians like Rouhani, weakened by Washington’s decision to quit the nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions in a move that stifled rapprochement with the West. Mr Rouhani, a moderate who sought to engage with the West, cannot stand for re-election because he has served two consecutive four-year terms. Almost 600 hopefuls, including 40 women, registered for the election.