Iran’s ultraconservatives Sunday hailed the election victory of their candidate Ebrahim Raisi, after Washington charged the vote was unfair and Tehran’s arch-foe Israel labelled him the “most extremist” president yet.
Raisi, 60, won Friday’s election in which more than half the voters stayed away after many political heavyweights had been barred from running and as an economic crisis driven by US sanctions has battered the country.
Raisi, whose black turban signifies direct descent from Islam’s Prophet Mohammed, is seen as close to the 81-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate political power in Iran.
Raisi was congratulated by Russia, Turkey and several Gulf states, and by Iran’s regional allies including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Iran’s moderate Jomhouri-e Eslami daily highlighted that conservatives had now cemented their hold on power, from parliament and the Guardian Council to the court system and armed forces.
– ‘Epic’ turnout –
The ultraconservative Kayhan daily argued that voter participation was “epic” considering the economic crisis, Covid pandemic and the “enemy’s propaganda”, referring to boycott calls from Iranian opposition groups abroad.
Rouhani’s landmark achievement was the 2015 deal with world powers under which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief.
While Iran has always denied seeking a nuclear weapon, Trump charged it was still planning to build the bomb and was destabilising the Middle East through armed proxy groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
– ‘Anti-Western views’ –
But Raisi has nonetheless said Iran should keep negotiating with the aim of ending the punishing sanctions that have largely cut the country of 83 million off from global markets and financial systems.
A spokesperson charged however that “Iranians were denied their right to choose their own leaders in a free and fair electoral process”.
Raisi was “committed to Iran’s rapidly advancing military nuclear program,” Haiat wrote on Twitter. “His election makes clear Iran’s true malign intentions, and should prompt grave concern among the international community.”
Analysts for think-thank the Eurasia Group said Raisi’s election win would likely not derail the ongoing Vienna talks to salvage the nuclear deal.
EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, speaking about the Vienna talks, said: “We are very close … So I hope that the result of the election is not going to be the last obstacle that will ruin the negotiation process.