Saturday, July 13, 2024

Runoff presidential election in Iran features hard-liner against reformist following historically low voter turnout

Iran Holds Runoff Presidential Election with Reformist and Hard-line Candidates

Iran held a high-stakes runoff presidential election on Friday, with the choice between a hardline former nuclear negotiator and a reformist lawmaker capturing the attention of a skeptical public. The first round of voting had seen the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history, but early results from the runoff showed reformist candidate Masoud Pezeshkian narrowly ahead of hard-liner Saeed Jalili.

Despite government officials and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei predicting a higher participation rate, online videos purported to show some polling centers empty, while in Tehran, there was light traffic and a heavy security presence on the streets. The runoff election closed after midnight, following a tradition in Iran.

The two candidates have vastly different platforms, with Jalili known for his hard-line stance on Iran’s mandatory headscarf and Pezeshkian campaigning on relaxing hijab enforcement and reaching out to the West. The election has sparked debate over the future direction of Iran, with supporters of Pezeshkian warning of a “Taliban-style” government under Jalili’s leadership.

Both candidates voted in southern Tehran, with Jalili seeking to secure the votes of those who supported hard-line parliamentary speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf in the first round of voting. Pezeshkian, a heart surgeon, came out on top in the initial round, while Jalili has been working to sway voters in his favor.

The election comes at a time of wider tensions in the Middle East, with conflicts in Gaza and Iran’s continued enrichment of uranium at near weapons-grade levels. The outcome of the election could shape Iran’s foreign policy, potentially moving towards either confrontation or collaboration with the West.

Despite calls for a boycott and the absence of a widely accepted opposition movement, millions of eligible voters in Iran have the opportunity to choose the direction of their country for the next four years. As polling stations remained open late into the night, Iranians weighed the implications of their vote on the future of their nation.

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