TEHRAN (Iran News) – Iranians enchased the epic scenery of the bright future once again. Iranians from all walks of life headed to polling stations across the country early on Friday to exercise their right to have a final say on all state matters ranging from how to run a village to deciding who will be the tenant of the Iranian presidential palace for the next four years.
Polling stations in Iran were opened on Friday morning at 07:00 am local time for the 13th presidential election, the 6th city and village and council elections, as well as the Parliament and the Assembly of Experts’ midterm elections in some constituencies. The stations continued to be open until midnight with a renewal of voting time for a few hours in the cards.
Four presidential candidates were on the ballots: Judiciary chief Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, Secretary of the Expediency Council Mohsen Rezaei, Amir-Hossein Qazizadeh-Hashemi, and former Governor of Central Bank of Iran Abdolnaser Hemmati. Initially, there were seven candidates in the race, but three of them withdrew in favor of the remaining candidates in the last days of the presidential campaigns.
In addition to the presidential election, voters elected members for some vacant seats at the Parliament and the Expediency Council. Furthermore, there was a fierce competition for the seats of city and village councils across the country. The competition is of real interest to voters and contenders alike as it directly affects the everyday life of millions of citizens all across the country.
More than 59,310,000 voters were eligible to cast their votes. Among them, about 1,392,000 were first-time voters. Nearly 3.5 million Iranians living abroad were also eligible to cast their votes in polling stations set up by the Iranian Foreign Ministry in 133 diplomatic missions. Inside Iran, voters were required to show their national birth certificate and an ID card called National Card to vote for their favorite candidates. The expatriates, however, can vote using their passports as well.
A number of senior Iranian diplomats participated in the elections while being abroad. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif cast his vote in a ballot box in the Turkish resort city of Antalya, where he is holding diplomatic meetings in the framework of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum, an event promoted by Turkey as the Turkish version of the World Economic Forum and the Munich Security Conference.
Seyyed Abbas Araqchi, Zarif’s political aide who is leading the Iranian negotiating team in the Vienna nuclear talks, also participated in the elections in the Austrian capital.
Spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry Saeed Khatibzadeh said Friday morning that he so far has not received any reports of election violations abroad, adding, “I assure you that polling stations will be open so that the last person who is interested can vote.”
The polls kicked off early morning with the Leader of the Islamic Revolution casting his vote and addressing the nation shortly. Speaking after casting his vote, Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, said, “It is the people who are controlling what is happening today. It is the people who are determining the country’s future for the coming years by voting.”
Ayatollah Khamenei participated in “the 13th Presidential election,” “the 6th elections for the Islamic city and village councils,” “the midterm elections for the 5th Assembly of Experts” and “the midterm elections for the 11th Islamic Consultative Assembly” and cast his vote at the ballot box in the first moments after the casting of ballots commenced, according to the khamenei.ir.
The Leader referred to the importance of participation of the people in determining the fate of the country on this day. Calling the people’s participation in the elections a wise action, the Leader went on to say, “We repeatedly invite people to participate in the elections. The result of their presence primarily affects the people themselves. Of course, the people’s turnout will also help to gain major advantages for the country in the international arena. However, the ones who mostly benefit from voting are the people.”
In saying that every single vote definitely matters, Ayatollah Khamenei advised the people, “You should participate and do this with a pure, divine intention. I advise you to do this important task at the earliest possible [time]. The sooner you do this, the better.”
In referring to the anniversary of the birth of Imam Ridha (pbuh), the Leader expressed hope that the election day will be a “day of celebration” for the Iranian people and that the nation will benefit from the election. In the end, the Leader thanked the election officials and the journalists who were present.
In addition to the Leader, almost all other high-ranking officials, including President Hassan Rouhani and Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf cast their votes and called on the people to do the same. They underlined the importance of elections in empowering the country both internally and externally.
After casting his vote, President Rouhani expressed hope that the current election will result in disappointing the enemies.
“This election is important,” the president said, adding, “Presidential elections are held every four years in the country and are an important matter given the broad powers and responsibilities set out in the law for the president.”
Rouhani acknowledged that the Iranian people are grappling with a host of economic issues but he underlined that “elections are important and that we must go to the polls and cast votes despite problems.”
“I wish we did not have any problems from the day of registration in the elections and we saw more people today. But people know how important these elections are for the country, their own destiny and the system of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” the president noted, pointing to the importance of the international implications of the election.
He added, “I think there are only a few countries in the world whose elections are of interest to the world, otherwise most of the countries in the world when they hold elections are mainly important to their own people. But there are several countries in the world whose elections are of interest to the whole world and they want to understand the participation of the people and who is elected and how it will be. The Islamic Republic of Iran is one of the most important countries and it has been like that for 42 years and it is like that today.”
He pointed out that “People should be aware that the whole world today is paying attention to the ballot box, the queues of people to cast their votes. God willing, we will make our friends all over the world happy, all Iranians happy and our enemies disappointed.”
This election is of real importance for a number of reasons. First, it is held after four years of American sever economic pressure on Iran under Donald Trump, who unilaterally pulled the U.S. out of a 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). With a stroke of a pen in May 2018, Trump launched the so-called “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, re-imposing sweeping economic sanctions on the country with the aim of bringing it to its knees. The Trump administration pinned too much hope on driving a wedge between the Iranian people and political establishment through exerting economic pressure. The endgame, many observers believed, was to bring down the establishment by fomenting social unrest and bread riots.
To Trump’s consternation, the Iranians didn’t revolt and continued to support their political system despite economic hardship. This election was the latest indication that the Iranian people still back the Islamic Republic. Ordinary Iranians turned out in large numbers to vote for the candidates they believe are well suited to best serve them. With a stroke of the pen, they are determining their destiny at the ballot box.
Second, the Iranian election is also emblematic of a convivial, healthy political process. In the run-up to the election, Iranian media outlets and social media platforms were abuzz with a heated debate over the electoral process on the whole. The episode began when the Guardian Council, a legal body in charge of vetting the election process, disqualified well-placed figures from running for office. Some commentators accused the vetting body of partisan practices while others underscored the legality of the disqualifications. Some even lauded the body’s courageous decision to disqualify the likes of Ali Larijani, indicating the legally strict procedures for the vetting process. Larijani currently serves as the Leader’s advisor and disqualifying him, proponents argued, sent a message that no one is above the law, even if it was a person as highly-placed as Larijani.
Moreover, the debate even included fervent calls from some critics to shun the vote. But as the polls opened in the morning, people flocked to cast their votes in complete ignorance of these calls. Unofficial reports suggested that nearly 10 million votes were cast in the boxes until mid-day, with some polling stations reporting high voter turnout and, in some cases, shortage of ballot papers.