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Iran elects hardline President with nuclear deal in balance

Iran elects hardline President with nuclear deal in balance

Ebrahim Raisi sweeps to a landslide victory in election, which could see the adoption of a more hostile stance towards the West
Ebrahim Raisi has been elected as Iran's new President
Ebrahim Raisi has been elected as Iran's new President
Photo credit: AFP

Ultraconservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi swept to a landslide win in Iran’s presidential election, potentially setting the oil-rich country on a more hostile course towards the West as world powers attempt to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

Raisi secured 17.8 million votes and the only moderate candidate in the race, Abdolnaser Hemmati, came third with 2.4 million ballots, Jamal Orf, head of Iran’s presidential election headquarters said in a statement on state TV, adding that 90% of ballots have been counted so far.

Figures given by Orf indicate that turnout was 48%, the lowest in a presidential vote in the history of the Islamic Republic, with Raisi securing 62% of ballots cast. Millions of voters stayed home after most moderate and reformist candidates were disqualified from running.

The victory for Raisi, 60, may complicate efforts to restore a landmark nuclear accord that has major implications for Middle East security and global oil markets.

The US exit from the deal under former President Donald Trump empowered hardliners and principlists in Iran, who were always critical of the agreement and won control of parliament last year.

Earlier on Saturday, pro-reform candidate Hemmati, who stepped aside as Central Bank governor to run for president, congratulated Raisi in an Instagram post. President Hassan Rouhani visited his would-be successor in person to congratulate him, according to state television.

Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal in 2018 sent tensions soaring in the Persian Gulf, fueling regional conflicts and prompting Tehran to abandon constraints on its nuclear program contained in the pact and to enrich uranium close to the level needed for a bomb.

An austere cleric who’s deeply hostile to the West, Raisi has been critical of the 2015 nuclear accord yet told voters during his campaign that he intended to preserve it. His election comes as world powers are trying to revive the agreement at talks in Vienna before Rouhani leaves office in the coming months.

Seen as a favourite to one day succeed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Raisi was sanctioned in 2019 by the Trump administration, which cited his role in a deadly crackdown a decade earlier on protesters alleging vote fraud.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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