Iranians began voting on Friday in a presidential election likely to be won by a judge fiercely loyal to the religious establishment, although many people are expected to ignore the vote due to discontent with economic hardship and hardline rule.

With uncertainty surrounding Iran’s efforts to revive its 2015 nuclear deal and growing poverty at home after years of U.S. sanctions, the turnout for the vote is being seen by Iranian analysts as a referendum on the leadership’s handling of an array of crises.

Queues formed outside the Aljavad Mosque polling station in central Tehran as voters turned up early to cast their ballots from 7 a.m. More than 59 million Iranians are eligible to vote, but official opinion polls suggest turnout could be as low as 41%, significantly lower than in past elections.

An Iranian man casts his vote during Iranian presidential election at the Iranian consulate, in Najaf, Iraq, June 18, 2021.
An Iranian man casts his vote during Iranian presidential election at the Iranian consulate, in Najaf, Iraq, June 18, 2021.
Reuter

Hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, 60, a close ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is favorite to succeed the incumbent Hassan Rouhani, forbidden under the constitution from serving a third four-year term. 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.

Polls will close at 3:30 p.m. but can be extended for two hours. The results are expected around midday on Saturday.

Presidential candidate Abdolnaser Hemmati casts his vote during presidential elections at a polling station in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2021.
Presidential candidate Abdolnaser Hemmati casts his vote during presidential elections at a polling station in Tehran, Iran June 18, 2021.
Reuters



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