Iran will be opening polls Friday for the election of a new president as four men race on the ballot, but one enjoys a significant lead over the others.
The election, which will be producing the eighth president of the country, is highly expected to be contentious amid projected low turnout largely due to economic hardship and frustration with hardline rule; the public disillusionment and widespread disqualification of reformist and pragmatic candidates by the Guardian Council, a 12-member constitutional vetting body.
President Hassan Rouhani on Thursday called out to the people to set aside their grievances and take part in the electoral process.
Hardline judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi and moderate former Central Bank governor Abdolnasser Hemmati remains main contenders after the Guardian Council disqualified several prominent candidates from running and others quit.
On Wednesday, hardliner former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, lawmaker Alireza Zakani and reformist former vice president Mohsen Mehralizadeh withdrew from the race.
“For the time being, let’s not think about grievances tomorrow,” Rouhani said in televised remarks.
Similarly, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged people to turn out in large numbers, saying that their voice at the poll would help avert foreign pressures on the Islamic Republic.
Khamenei happens to be the most powerful in the country according to the Iranian Constitution that provides that a supreme leader is elected for life and responsible for choosing six of the 12-member Guardian Council, holds most of the powers of the state
Turnout could be as low as 41%, significantly lower than in past elections, official opinion polls suggest.
In addition to anger over the disqualification of prominent moderates, grievances include economic hardship exacerbated by U.S. sanctions as well as official corruption, mismanagement, and a crackdown on protests in 2019 triggered by rising fuel prices.
Polling stations open at 7 a.m. local time and close at 2 a.m. on Saturday. The interior minister told state TV that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, voting will take place outside at 67,000 sites across the country, with social distancing and the donning of face masks. Voters are asked to bring their own pens.