A paper showing the presidential candidates is pictured during the snap presidential election to choose a successor to Ebrahim Raisi following his death in a helicopter crash, in Tehran, Iran June 28, 2024.

Iranians voted on Friday, June 28, in a presidential election where a lone reformist aimed for a breakthrough against a divided conservative camp.

Around 61 million Iranians were eligible to vote in the election called after the death of ultraconservative president Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash last month.

The Guardian Council, which vets candidates, allowed the reformist Masoud Pezeshkian, 69, to run against a conservative field dominated by parliamentary speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili. No major reformist or moderate candidates were approved for Iran’s last presidential election three years ago.

Also left in contention is cleric Mostafa Pourmohammadi after two ultraconservatives, Tehran mayor Alireza Zakani and Raisi’s former vice president Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi, dropped out.

The ballot in sanctions-hit Iran comes at a time of high tensions between the Islamic republic and its arch-foes Israel and the United States, as the Gaza war rages on. “We start the elections” for the country’s 14th presidential ballot, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi said in a televised address.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate political power in Iran, cast his ballot shortly after the polls opened. “Election day is a day of joy and happiness for us Iranians,” he said in a televised speech where he also called for a high turnout. “We encourage our dear people to take the issue of voting seriously and participate,” he said.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei casts his vote during presidential elections in Tehran, Iran June 28, 2024.

Khamenei demands ‘most qualified candidate’

Voting was underway at 58,640 polling stations across the country, mostly in schools and mosques. Polling stations will be open for 10 hours, though authorities could extend voting time as in previous elections.

Early projections of the results are expected by Saturday morning and official results by Sunday. If no candidate wins 50% of the vote, a second round will be held on July 5, for only the second time in Iranian electoral history after the 2005 vote went to a runoff.

Partner service

Learn French with Gymglish

Thanks to a daily lesson, an original story and a personalized correction, in 15 minutes per day.

Try for free

The candidacy of Pezeshkian, until recently a relative unknown, has revived cautious hopes for Iran’s reformist wing after years of dominance by the conservative and ultraconservative camps.

Iran’s last reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, praised him as “honest, fair and caring.” Khatami, who served from 1997 to 2005, had also endorsed the moderate Hassan Rouhani, who won the presidency and sealed Iran’s nuclear deal in 2015 with Western powers before it was derailed three years later.

The Iranian opposition, particularly in the diaspora, has called for a boycott of the vote which they see as not credible.

Khamenei insisted this week that “the most qualified candidate” must be “the one who truly believes in the principles of the Islamic Revolution” of 1979 that overthrew the US-backed monarchy. The next president, he said, must allow Iran “to move forward without being dependent on foreign countries”, although he added Iran should not “cut its relations with the world.”

Debate over hijab

During campaign debates, Jalili criticized the moderates for having signed the 2015 accord which promised Iran sanctions relief in return for curbs on its nuclear program.

Jalili said the deal, which the United States withdrew from in 2018 under then-president Donald Trump, “did not benefit Iran at all.” Jalili led Iran’s nuclear program negotiations between 2007 and 2013.

Pezeshkian has urged efforts to salvage the agreement and lift crippling sanctions. “Are we supposed to be eternally hostile to America, or do we aspire to resolve our problems with this country?” he asked.

On the eve of the ballot, the United States on Thursday announced sanctions against shipping companies, based in the United Arab Emirates, for transporting Iranian oil, saying it was a response to “escalations” in Iran’s nuclear program.

The contentious issue of the compulsory head covering for women also emerged during the campaign, almost two years since a vast protest movement swept the country after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22. An Iranian Kurd, Amini had been arrested for an alleged violation of the country’s strict dress code for women.

In the televised debates, all candidates distanced themselves from the sometimes heavy-handed police arrests of women refusing to wear the hijab head covering in public. Pourmohammadi, the only clerical candidate, said that “under no circumstances should we treat Iranian women with such cruelty.”

Read more Subscribers only Iran’s morality police make a comeback

Le Monde with AFP

Reuse this content