The Ministry of Interior announced the results of the Presidential election at noon. Out of 28.8 million votes, Ebrahim Raisi was declared the winner with about 17.9 million votes (62.1%), Mohsen Rezaei came second with about 3.4 million votes (11.8%), Abdol-Naser Hemmati received about 2.4 million votes (8.3%) and Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi received less than 990,000 votes (3.4%). The Ministry reported that over 4 million votes were invalid (14.4%) and the overall turnout was 48.8%, a drop of 24% from the 2017 election. The election participation rate was particularly low in Tehran, but higher in the provinces.
News and Analysis
In the lead-up to the official announcement of Raisi’s victory, each of the other three candidates sent letters of congratulations to the President Elect and conceded defeat. First was Mohsen Rezaei at about 10am, Abdol-Naser Hemmati just before 11am, and finally Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi shortly after 11am. Roughly at the same time, President Hassan Rouhani made a “unofficial” statement to congratulate Raisi.
Shortly after 2pm, President Hassan Rouhani arrived at the offices of President Elect Ebrahim Raisi to congratulate him on his victory. During the meeting, Rouhani and Raisi discussed election turnout and its importance to the popular sovereignty of the Islamic Republic.
Voting opened at 7am with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei casting the first vote at the Shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran. After voting, Khamenei spoke to the media, saying “today belongs to the people” and adding “the sooner you do this duty [vote], the better”. Polling stations, mostly located in religious buildings like mosques, hoseeiniyehs (ceremonial halls) and imamzadehs (shrines), were scheduled to open at 7am and close at midnight.
There was considerable voter frustration as the opening of polling stations was delayed in many locations throughout the country, with some taking several hours to open. Speculation online as to the cause wavered between rumours of a cyber-attack, a deliberate ploy to make the voting queues seem longer and general mismanagement. Later, the Head of IT at Election Headquarters explained that the delay was caused in the slowness in loading of the system for authenticating registered voters, which had been delivered to each polling station by the Ministry of Interior in the hour before polls opened for security reasons.
The Election Headquarters at the Ministry of Interior announced in the evening that polling stations could stay open for an additional two hours, until 2am, due to the delay that occurred in polling stations opening on Friday morning. However, some polling stations appeared to still be open at 3am in some parts of the country.
Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh, the Reformist candidate who resigned on Wednesday, arrived at the Jamaran Hosseiniyeh (where Ayatollah Khomeini once lived and taught) in the northern part of Tehran to vote at 11:30am. His visit was marred by heckling at the polling station, with several people reportedly shouting “marg bar zed-e velayat-e faqih [death to the opponents of the Guardianship of Jurists]” at the candidate. The Guardianship of the Jurists is the official system of government in Iran where clerics have juridical and political oversight over government, and the chant is popular among devoted supporters of the Supreme Leader. The chant indicates the hostility of hard-line conservatives who see Reformists as subversive.
A ban on campaigning for the Presidential election, alongside the local council and Assembly of Experts elections, began at 7am on Thursday. A spokesman for the national broadcaster, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), explained that, “campaigning for this election is prohibited 24 hours before the ballots open… from today until the end of the elections, the candidates and their supporters do not have the right to campaign and if any cases are observed, they will be dealt with according to the law”.
In response to a question on the disqualification of Ali Larijani and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, spokesman of the Guardian Council, said “I do not know the reason for their rejection. We are not obliged to give reasons, but in last week three or four asked and the reasons were provided to them”. Kadkhodaei added that he hoped any issues regarding procedure of vetting candidates would be resolved through legislation by the Majles after the election, ignoring the fact that the Guardian Council changed the vetting criteria before the election against the wishes of the Majles.
Due to the ongoing COVID situation and danger of another wave, the Ministry of Health outlined its protocols for the election. Where possible, voting will be held in open spaces, and social distancing of 1.5 to 2 metres will be enforced. The wearing of masks at polling stations is mandatory and hand sanitiser will be provided. The entrance and exit of polling stations must be separate, and during voting and the counting of votes, proper ventilation must be provided.
Spokesperson from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saeed Khatibzadeh, announced that the Iranian presidential election will be held in 133 countries (other than Iran) with 234 ballot boxes on 5 continents. Khatibzadeh added that voting is not possible in three countries: Canada (which refused to accommodate the election), Yemen (because of war) and Singapore (because of COVID).
Reformist candidate Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh has sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior announcing that he is withdrawing from the election. Although he did not mention any other candidates in his resignation letter, Abdol-Naser Hemmati thanked Mehr-Alizadeh for his resignation as did former President Mohammad Khatami, who then encouraged Reformists to vote for Hemmati.
Ali-Reza Zakani withdrew from the election after attending the Ali Akbar Shrine in the northern Tehran suburb of Chizar. Zakani said of Raisi “I myself will vote for him and I hope that with his election, fundamental reforms will be made in the country”. The Ministry of Interior later requested that Zakani submit a formal resignation, as otherwise his withdrawal is not considered legal. Candidates must resign in writing to the Ministry of Interior before 7am on Thursday to be removed from the ballot.
FarsNews reported that Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi became the fourth candidate to withdraw from the election. However, almost immediately representatives from Ghazizadeh’s campaign headquarters denied these reports and lodged a formal complaint with the Ministry of Interior against the media sources who first reported the news.
Saeed Jalili withdrew his candidacy in a statement. Jalili said “now that a large part of society has shown their support for our dear brother Hojjatoleslam Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, it is appropriate for all the believers of the Revolutionary Front to vote for him”. Jalili encouraged his fellow conservative candidates to also resign in Raisi’s favour and encouraged his supporters to vote for Raisi.
In an address to the nation, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that by voting, Iranians ensure the safety of the republican system. Khamenei said that if the turnout is low, it will allow the enemy to coerce Iran with the intention of making the country a hotbed for terrorism. Khamenei said that Iranians should not take advantage of their democracy and look to Saudi Arabia, where citizens “don’t know a ballot box from a fruit box”.
Abdol-Naser Hemmati said on Twitter that he would invite Mohammad-Javad Zarif to serve in his cabinet as either Vice President or Foreign Minister. Citing the lifting of sanctions as a priority for his government, Hemmati said Zarif will need to stay in a senior role as negotiations continue.
Disqualified candidate Ali Motahari said that “if all those who oppose [the decisions of] the Guardian Council and support free elections, including Reformists and Moderates, support Hemmati, then the chances that the elections will go to a second round are high”. Motahari encouraged Iranians to vote for Hemmati to “seize the remaining loophole of free elections”. Motahari said only through voting did Iranians have an opportunity to change the make-up of the current Guardian Council, and save their system. Some unsourced polls published earlier claimed that Hemmati could win the election with a turnout of 57%.
Seyyed Mehr Mousavi, the spokesman from the Election Headquarters from the Ministry of Interior, said that the result of the election will be announced before noon Saturday, within twelve hours of polls closing. Mousavi said that the Ministry had coordinated the counting of votes with the Guardian Council and officials in polling stations throughout Iran, so the announcement of the final result will be swift and simultaneous.
Ebrahim Raisi held a meeting with the editors of several Reformist-affiliated media outlets. The editors of Sharq, Donya-e-Eqtesad, the ISNA and several other Reformist-affiliates, alongside the editors of the IRNA news agency, praised Raisi’s performance as Chief Justice and his plans for president. Raisi ominously added in turn that no newspaper had ever been banned under his direction. The editors’ endorsement runs contrary to most other Reformists, who have supported either Abdul Nasser Hemmati or Mohsen Mehr Alizadeh.
Hadi Khamenei, brother of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, published an open letter to Abdol-Naser Hemmati and Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh, addressing them as “Reformists” and telling them form a coalition. Khamenei wrote to the two candidates that “your efforts in defence of the Republic and of reform for the transformation of the Iranian people are commendable… I ask you to form an alliance with each other and unite with the presence of one of the two of you in the race”. Khamenei said that Hemmati and Mehr-Alizadeh would set a good example to the people of Iran by doing so in service of their country.
Mohsen Rezaei appeared on a Clubhouse Q&A session this evening to promote his campaign. Rezaei promised to resolve the JCPOA nuclear agreement immediately upon taking office and to sign the FATF once sanctions are lifted. Rezaei said he would improve the process for vetting presidential candidates by providing “specialised tools” to the Guardian Council and promised to better manage internet filtering but not eliminate it. Rezaei also promised to include Sunni Iranians in his cabinet.
Ali-Reza Zakani took aim at the Minister of Communications, Mohammad-Javad Azari Jahromi, criticising his stance on internet filtering. Zakani mocked Azari Jahromi for being a self-styled “Minister for Freedom” and called the Minister disingenuous for presenting himself as a progressive since he was responsible for the portfolio that enforced internet filtering.
Disqualified candidate Ali Larijani became the latest high-profile figure to release a statement encouraging people to vote on June 18. Larijani asked Iranians to put aside the controversy of the country’s internal and external problems and show that their will is greater than those they blame for Iran’s failures.
Upon hearing the false news that Ali-Reza Zakani had resigned from the race, Abdol-Naser Hemmati jumped on the news saying it proved the point he had made throughout the debate: that Zakani – along with Ghazizadeh, Jalili and Rezaei – are “cover candidates” for Raisi. However, once it became apparent that the news was false and Zakani was still a candidate, Hemmati deleted the tweet.
Ebrahim Raisi arrived unannounced at the Tehran Stock Exchange and Securities Hall this morning and held impromptu meetings with officials and senior figures there. Raisi is believed to be the second high-ranking official in the history of the Islamic Republic to visit the Tehran Stock Exchange after the late former President Hashemi Rafsanjani.
Influential Muslim intellectual Abdol-Karim Soroush announced his support for Abdol-Naser Hemmati. Considered one of the key intellectuals behind the Reformist movement, Soroush has lived abroad for the past twenty years, as his criticism of clerical involvement in government was received with hostility by the regime. Soroush made mention of Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, the two candidates placed under house arrest for their opposition to the 2009 election result, in his message of support for Hemmati. Soroush’s comments would mostly be aimed at educated voters with Reformist inclinations.
Hossein Matin, the Iranian charge d’affaires in London, said that the British government has permitted Iran to operate 11 polling stations in the UK: five in London and six in other cities, including Leeds, Manchester, and Newcastle. The polling stations will be open from 9am to 7pm, will operate according COVID restrictions and are open to Iranians able to produce a passport, national identity card and birth certificate.
Manouchehr Mottaki, spokesman for the Unity Council, one of the main Principalist organisations, has joined the chorus of conservative voices calling for the four conservative candidates (Ghazizadeh, Jalili, Rezaei and Zakani) to stand aside for the consensus candidate, Ebrahim Raisi. Mottaki reminded the candidates of the 2013 election, where the large number of conservative candidates on election day split the conservative vote, resulting in the victory of Moderate candidate Hassan Rouhani. Mottaki did not name any names, but only encourage “the five candidates of the Revolutionary Front” to come together and choose a “consensus”.
Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi showed some willingness to resign in favour of Ebrahim Raisi, tweeting that he would definitely not cause the loss of the Revolutionary Front, meaning the conservative movement in Iran. Ghazizadeh’s comments come one day after he declared that he would be there on election day as a candidate.
Reports came in late on Monday night that Ali-Reza Zakani had announced his intention to stand down in favour of Ebrahim Raisi at a rally in Kashan. However, shortly after, a representative from Zakani’s headquarters denied that the candidate had resigned and said Zakani will proceed with his public engagements on Tuesday.
One-time favourite candidate, Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif, released a video on Instagram in which he beseeched Iranians to vote for the good of Iran. Zarif said that boycotting was not a solution, and voting would be a blow to Iran’s enemies, particularly Israel. Zarif added that voting will not only accelerate the end of sanctions but will also insulate Iran from future sanctions.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that according to official statistics, there are 3.5 million Iranians living abroad who are eligible to vote in this election. Iran usually encourages its diaspora to participate in its elections, although the diaspora vote does not usually influence the result as much as in other countries. Iran has clashed with other countries for not allowing polling stations on their territory, with the most recent being Canada on Friday, which argued that it is under no obligation to do so, especially since Iran and Canada do not have formal diplomatic relations.
Mohsen Rezaei has once again advocated for a decentralisation of power in Iran, calling for economic policy in Village and Town Councils to be left into the hands of local people. Power in Iran is highly centralised in Iran, and the decentralisation of power is a common policy put forward to deal with ethnic and regional tensions. Local council elections will take place on the same day as the Presidential Election on Friday June 18.
Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi said he will be a candidate on election day, meaning he will not stand aside for Ebrahim Raisi as conservative candidates were expected to do. Ghazizadeh has experienced a rise in popularity in the polls and although he is not considered a serious challenger to Raisi, the polls seem to have influenced Ghazizadeh’s desire to compete on election day.
Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of Kayhan newspaper which is close to the Supreme Leader, today wrote that refusal of four candidates endorsed by the Revolutionary Front in favour of the fifth candidate is a mistake, the consequences of which will be an unforgivable sin. Shariatmadari was referring to the agreement that Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, Saeed Jalili, Mohsen Rezaei and Ali-Reza Zakani would have had to have made to be endorsed by the Principalist organisations, that they would stand aside for Ebrahim Raisi before election day so as not to split the conservative vote.
Abdol-Naser Hemmati has called for the increase of the minimum wage for all Iranians of roughly $1500 per month. He said this would bring it into lines of the purchasing power of the minimum wage, which has declined in the past four years due to the economic crisis.
Former President Mohammad Khatami published a handwritten letter in which he called on Reformists to participate in the elections despite the “cold and depressing atmosphere”. Khatami, whose actions are not reported in Iran due to his support for the 2009 election protests, appealed to nationalistic sentiments, saying that Reformist should vote in order to “properly fulfill their responsibility towards the homeland and the people at this critical time”. The government fears that a low turnout will be interpreted as delegitimising the election result.
Abdol-Naser Hemmati said today that he did not have a serious competitor among the other six candidates, and his only serious competitor was apathy towards the ballot box. Hemmati said he knew many Iranians were disillusioned because of the politicisation of the economy at the expense of good economic management and the disaster of COVID, and promised to use his expertise to improve both situations.
Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh made a visit to Tabriz today, the capital of the historic region of Iranian Azerbaijan, in order to appeal to his Azeri-speaking supporter base. He encouraged “the people of Azerbaijan” to vote, appealing to their history of action during the 1906 Constitutional and 1979 Islamic Revolutions. Mehr-Alizadeh advocated for increased use of the Azeri language in accordance with the Constitution and dealing with the drying up of Lake Urmia, two of the largest political issues in Iranian Azerbaijan. Mehr-Alizadeh’s trip to Tabriz was criticised by his opponents, who said that the event was poorly attended.
Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi has cancelled a planned campaign trip to Shiraz on the grounds that he could not fit it in his schedule. Ghazizadeh’s spokesperson, Zahra Shaikhi, attend the events on his behalf, the main event of which was a celebration for women in Fazilat Park on the occasion of the birthday of Fatima Masoumeh, the daughter of the Seventh Imam and sister of the Eighth Imam, who is revered as a saint in Shi’ism.
The Third Debate was more focused than the previous two, with most of the candidates seeking to be less antagonistic towards each other and more focused on explaining their policies and pointing out the shortcomings of their rivals’ policies At the beginning of the debate, the moderator announced that the seven most important issues nominated by the general public for this debate were housing, employment, unemployment, inflation, justice, subsidies and corruption. Interestingly, neither sanctions nor COVID were raised as top issues by the general public. The debate focused mainly, therefore, on economic issues, particularly inflation, as well as accountability and internet filtering.
Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, who has become a viable candidate in some polls, pointed to his relative youth (as opposed to most of the other candidates) and said that he represented generational change. He said “Dear people of Iran, to entrust the management and solving of today’s problems to the very people who created the current situation is like entrusting the treatment of malaria to mosquitoes or the treatment of COVID to the virus itself”.
Ebrahim Raisi seemed much more prepared than in previous debates, and used his non-executive experience to his advantage, pointing to his involvement in building local business while head of the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad and emphasising his role in fighting crime and corruption while Chief Justice. Raisi was much more coherent and articulate when taking on his main challenger, former Central Bank governor Abdol-Naser Hemmati, by centring his narrative on the slogan that “banks are a barrier to production”.
After Raisi said that “bank arrears must be repaid”, Hemmati produced a handwritten list of 13 names of those in arrears, to which Raisi said “We had previously published the names of the bank debtors given by Mr Hemmati. If Mr Hemmati had the list of bank super-debtors, why hadn’t he handed it over to the judiciary so far? Why did they bring it to us in the debate?” Hemmati responded that the names had been provided to the judiciary and accused them of not acting swiftly before trying to break Raisi’s image of a strong judicial manager by saying “Mr Raisi, the economy is not like a court and a judge”.
Mohsen Rezaei did not perform particularly well, but centred his speeches on imager of Iran needing two major surgeries: for its governance and its economy. When asked how he would fund his centrepiece policy of a monthly 450 thousand toman subsidy, he stumbled, saying “don’t worry where I get the money from, as long as there is not theft, it’s not a problem”
Saeed Jalili asked more rhetorical questions than he gave rhetorical answers, but he developed his narrative around having the most extensive planning, saying “Iran needs a plan – if you want to weave an Iranian rug, you need a comprehensive plan to weave it row by row, knot by knot”.
Abdol-Naser Hemmati placed the responsibilities of Iran’s economic failures on the behaviour of hardliners, who had caused the sanctions which now cost the economy 16 billion annually. In differentiating himself from Raisi, Hemmati said “tell me, what will happen if power falls into the hands of the extremists? I can easily say that more sanctions will be imposed”.
Hemmati also accused the hardliners (meaning all other candidates except for Mehr-Alizadeh) of turning Iran’s neighbours into enemies, naming Saudi Arabia and UAE specifically, of creating alliances that brought no economic benefit to Iran, specifically naming Iraq and China, and sabotaging agreements that benefit Iran, specifically the FATF and JCPOA.
Jalili had said “the signing of conventions, including the FATF, is of no benefit to the country” to which Hemmati retorted “Mr Jalili and North Korea are the only ones saying that the FATF is useless. Does that mean 200 other countries do not understand this? Let the country breathe!”. Raisi said he was supportive of the JCPOA, although the agreement would be better under a “strong government”, a reference to his slogan “a people’s government for a strong Iran”.
Ali-Reza Zakani focused his speeches on what he called the three “n”s of Iran’s failures: not knowing, not wanting, not being able. Zakani also produced a letter which supposedly showed Hemmati as a key supporter of the petrol price rise of 2019, which led to protests which were violently suppressed, which ran contrary to Hemmati’s own claims of opposition to the price rise. Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh took a similar road to Hemmati, saying the problems that Iran faces stem from the fact that everything is politicised: “our economy and our livelihoods suffer because of politicisation”
Mehr-Alizadeh also continued to lobby on ethnic issues, which had been a feature of the second debate in particular, arguing that local languages should be permitted for use in regional universities and the press, posing the question “is there equality between ethnic groups in Iran?” Other candidates avoided the issue, although Rezaei said that his plan for Iran’s development was all inclusive and Ghazizadeh blamed a rise in ethnic dissatisfaction on the decline of family. Mehr-Alizadeh criticised treatment of Sunnis in Iran, particularly the ban on Sunni seminaries and Sunni mosques in places like Tehran. As soon as the debate finished, the most senior Sunni leader in Iran, Molavi Abdol-Hamid, announced his support for Raisi.
Internet filtering became a means of discussing social issues, with Hemmati criticising Raisi’s mention of “safe filtering” saying that “safe filtering means closing Instagram”. Hemmati also tried to bring the discussion of women’s rights on to the agenda in a roundabout way, since it was clear the candidates may have been warned after the last debate. Hemmati asked Raisi if he agreed with the Friday Imam of Mashhad, Ahmad Alam-ol-Hoda (who is also Raisi’s father-in-law), and his views on women. Alam-ol-Hoda’s Instagram account was recently suspended. Raisi said he had not introduced any new filtering while Chief Justice. While Zakani said “Mr Hemmati, why are you talking about filtering? You closed your Instagram comments until yesterday. You do not dare to talk to people”.
Ali-Reza Zakani today said he will not make a promise to have a set percentage of women in his cabinet as “promising to appoint a certain number of women as ministers is contrary to religious and meritocratic standards and norms”. Zakani also criticised other candidates for “turning cultural issues into political-security issues” which in his mind amounted to a “great betrayal”.
Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi said his Salaam Government will set up a credit fund for newlyweds in order to encourage young couples to marry and have children. Ghazizadeh said that the financial situation was a barrier preventing many young couples from getting married, but also pointed to the rise of ethnic and cultural issues in distracting people from family.
The Guardian Council has announced that voting hours on election day, Friday June 18, would be from 7am to midnight. The time is slightly shorter than the extended hours announced by President Hassan Rouhani a month ago, who said voting hours have been extended to 7am to 3am the following morning to prevent crowding and comply with COVID restrictions.
A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission, Esmail Mousavi, lashed out at the Canadian government, accusing them of preventing Iranian citizens of Canada from participating in the election. Canada and Iran have not had diplomatic relations since 2012, meaning that there is no Iranian embassy or consulate in which Iranian citizens can vote in Canada, and Canada has not allowed the Iranian government to set up any polling station inside the country since diplomatic relations broke a decade ago, citing the meaninglessness of Iran’s elections and the lack of legal obligation for Canada to allow the vote. Mousavi said that Iran will organise voting stations inside the United States near the Canadian border to cater for its citizens in Canada.
Reformist Faezeh Hashemi said that her late father, former President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani Hashemi, would have supported Abdol-Naser Hemmati in this election. Faezeh Hashemi was a potential candidate in this election but announced she would not run in April as she considered the result a foregone conclusion.
Ebrahim Raisi held a meeting with Sunni members of parliament in which they endorsed his candidacy and called for unity. A Sunni representative from the southern city of Bushehr said of Raisi “we expect him to work for the realization of humanity and fulfill our demands of the government” while a representative from the north-east called for unity in order to eliminate conflict and achieve glory. A representative from Kurdistan also asked Raisi to seriously deal with the problems that affect Sunni provinces, such as discrimination in employment and poor infrastructure.
Mohsen Rezaei criticised the damage that the banking sector has done to the Iranian economy and society at large, saying that they have caused more damage to Iran than the Iraqis during the 8-year long Iran-Iraq War. Rezaei said he will make the Central Bank more autonomous and deal directly with the financial instability experienced by most Iranians.