Voting begins in Iran's snap presidential election

Voting begins in Iran's snap presidential election

Three candidates -- a reformist and two conservatives -- are locked in a close fight

By Syed Zafar Mehdi

TEHRAN, Iran (AA) - Voting has commenced in Iran's snap presidential election, with people heading to polling stations in the capital Tehran and other cities to cast their ballots.

Four candidates -- Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Saeed Jalili, Masoud Pezeshkian and Mostafa Pourmohammadi -- are vying for the presidency after the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash last month.

Two conservative candidates -- Amir-Hossein Qazizadeh Hashemi and Alireza Zakani -- withdrew from the race on Thursday to avoid splitting the vote in their political camp.

Voting lines will remain open until 6 p.m. local time (1430GMT) on Friday, but the process is likely to be extended by the Interior Ministry, as witnessed in previous elections.

At least 64 million people in Iran are eligible to vote in this year's presidential election, the majority of whom are young people. In the 2021 presidential election, 59.3 million people had the right to vote.

Around 10 million Iranians living overseas are also eligible to cast their ballots in Friday's snap election at 344 designated polling stations set up in various countries.

Within Iran, a total of 58,640 polling stations will facilitate the voting process, more than 6,000 of which are in Tehran, according to election headquarters.

The results of the election will be announced on Saturday afternoon, Mohammad Taqi Shahcheraghi, the head of the election headquarters, told state TV on Thursday.

If none of the four candidates secures more than 50% of the vote, the election will proceed to a second round on July 5, where the two candidates with the highest number of votes will face each other.

According to pre-election polls, three candidates -- Qalibaf, Pezeshkian and Jalili -- are locked in a close battle. While Qalibaf and Jalili are from the conservative camp, Pezeshkian is the only reformist candidate.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a message posted on his X account late Thursday urged people to come out to vote in large numbers "in all corners of the country."

Unlike in 2021, when reformists had virtually boycotted the polls following the disqualification of key candidates, this time, calls have been made by top reformist leaders, including former President Mohammad Khatami, urging people to vote.

The turnout at the 2021 presidential election, when Ebrahim Raisi won by a landslide, was at a record low of around 49%. The previous lowest was in 1993, at 50.6%, when Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani defeated his rival Ahmad Tavakkoli to retain power.

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