Ebrahim Raisi, ultra-conservative judiciary chief, set to win Iran’s presidential election

By CNN staff

Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline judiciary chief with a brutal human rights record, is set to win Iran’s controversial presidential election, according to preliminary results announced by the interior ministry and reported by state media Saturday.

Raisi, who is currently under US sanctions, emerged as the frontrunner after an election supervisory body barred all of his serious rivals from the race. Analysts described the vote as the country’s most uncompetitive election since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979.

With 90% of the ballots counted, voter turnout stood at around 48%, according to election officials. Far fewer voters turned up for this election, which was widely seen as a foregone conclusion, than they did in 2017, when turnout was over 70%.

Raisi has so far garnered more than 17.8 million votes, followed by Mohsen Rezaei, another conservative who secured 3.3 million votes. The sole moderate candidate, Abdolnaser Hemmati, got 2.4 million votes.

The election comes at a pivotal moment for Iran. The next government will have to confront an economic crisis exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and calls for constitutional reform. Tehran is also currently locked in negotiations with the United States about how to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

Raisi, a close associate of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has played a leading role for decades in the prosecution of political prisoners in Iran.

In 1988, Raisi was part of a four-person “death panel” that allegedly oversaw the mass execution of up to 5,000 political prisoners, according to rights groups. His two years as Iran’s chief justice were marked by the intensified repression of dissent and human rights abuses.

On Saturday, outgoing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Raisi to offer his congratulations.

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