Iran’s Hardline Judicial Chief Leahy Wins Presidential Election

Ebrahim Raisi, the hard-line judiciary chief who was endorsed by Iran’s Supreme Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, won what appears to be the lowest turnout presidential election in Iranian history on Saturday (June 18).

According to the Associated Press, preliminary election results show that Raisi received 17.8 million votes, former IRGC commander-in-chief Mohsen Rezaei received 330, and former central bank governor Abdolnasser Hemati, who belongs to the moderate faction, received only 240 votes.

The report said Leahy was able to dominate the race because his strongest opponents, some heavyweight political figures, were barred from running under the supervision of Supreme Spiritual Leader Khamenei. And Leahy’s candidacy triggered widespread apathy among eligible voters about the election. Some, including former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have called for a boycott of the election.

Iran’s battered economy and the growing number of new coronavirus infections over many months have also contributed to voter apathy toward the election.

Since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, authorities have traditionally viewed election turnout as a measure of support for the theocracy. In a televised address on June 4, Supreme Spiritual Leader Ayatollah Khamenei urged voters to cast their ballots in Iran’s presidential election, saying that some people want to abdicate their responsibility to vote for absurd reasons, which means “becoming the enemy of Iran, the enemy of Islam and the enemy of religious democracy.

The report also said that the other three candidates quickly conceded defeat and congratulated Leahy. But while such a quick admission of defeat is not unusual in previous Iranian elections, it echoes what Iran’s semi-official media has been suggesting, namely that the election, which was carefully rigged by the authorities, was a decisive victory for Leahy despite calls for a boycott. Leahy’s election would give Iran’s hardliners full control of the government.

Leahy would be the first Iranian president to be subject to U.S. sanctions before he even takes office. Leahy was one of four judges who oversaw the execution of thousands of political prisoners in Iran in 1988, and the United States imposed sanctions on him for alleged human rights violations. And the Iranian judicial system, where he became chief justice, has been widely criticized by the international community for having one of the highest numbers of executions in the world.

Iran has a total population of more than 80 million, and more than 59 million voters eligible to vote in the election.

Iranian state television said the final counting operations are still underway and the Interior Ministry will announce the final results later.