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Iran: second round of presidential election pitting a reformist against an ultraconservative

Iranians vote on Friday for the second round of the presidential election, which pits the deputy against Iran. reformer Massoud Pezeshkian à a former nuclear negotiator, the ultraconservative Saïd Jalili.

The election is being closely followed abroad while Iran, heavyweight in the Middle East, is at the heart of several geopolitical crises, from the war in Gaza to the nuclear issue, in which it opposes Western countries. , notably the United States, its sworn enemy.

After a first round marked by a strong abstention, some 61 million Iranians have been called to the polls in the country's 58,638 polling stations since 8:00 a.m. (04:30 GMT). Voting operations were extended for the first time until 8:00 p.m. (4:30 p.m. GMT) then 10:00 p.m., and can extend until midnight. The results are expected on Saturday.

Coming in first in the first round with 42.4% of the votes, Mr. Pezeshkian pleads for an Iran more open to the West. Mr. Jalili, who obtained 38.6% of the votes, is known for his inflexible positions against Western powers.

Mr. Pezeshkian, 69, received the support of former presidents, the reformist Mohammad Khatami and the moderate Hassan Rouhani.

His rival, 58 years old, notably has the support of Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, the conservative president of Parliament, who came third with 13.8% of the votes in the first round .

The election, hastily organized after the death of ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raïssi in a helicopter accident on May 19, is being held in a context of popular discontent particularly faced with the state of the economy hit by international sanctions.

– “Different visions” –

Turnout in the first round a week ago reached 39.92% of the 61 million voters, its lowest level in 45 years of the Islamic Republic.

Iran: second round of presidential election pitting a reformist against an ultraconservative

An Iranian woman shows her ink-stained index finger after voting in the second round of the presidential election in Tehran, July 5, 2024 © AFP – RAHEB HOMAVANDI

Opposition figures in Iran and within the diaspora have called for a boycott of the vote, judging that the conservative and reformist camps represent two sides of the same coin.

But for the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Akbar Salehi, voters do have a “choice” to make, given the “totally different visions” of the candidates, he told AFP after voting in the east of the capital.

In a polling station in Tehran, Hossein, 40, says he chose Mr. Pezeshkian because he “can change things”.

Farzad, 52 years old – who like Hossein does not wish to give his last name – made the same choice, to “prevent the access to power of radicals” ultraconservatives .

“We have been crying death to America for 45 years, that's enough, (…) We cannot build a wall around the country”, he insists.

Iran: second round of presidential election pitting a reformist against an ultraconservative

The ultraconservative candidate, Said Jalili (C), votes in the second round of the presidential election, on July 5, 2024 in Tehran, Iran © AFP – RAHEB HOMAVANDI

Melika Moghtadaie, dressed in a black chador, opted for Mr. Jalili. This 19-year-old student is counting on him to “help improve the country's economy.”

In a café in the center of the capital, Elmira, a 26-year-old student, abstained and hopes to be imitated by many to “send a message” to the world.

– “Unhappy” people –

During two televised debates, the candidates addressed the country's economic difficulties, its international relations, the low participation rate in elections and the restrictions imposed on the Internet by the government.

Iran: second round of presidential election pitting a reformist against an ultraconservative

An Iranian woman votes in the second round of the presidential election in Qarchak Varamin, southwest of Tehran, July 5, 2024 © AFP – RAHEB HOMAVANDI

“People are unhappy with us,” officials, Mr. Pezeshkian said. “When 60% of the population does not participate (in an election), that means there is a problem” with the government, he argued.

The reformist candidate, who affirms his loyalty to the Islamic Republic, called for “constructive relations” with Washington and European countries in order to “remove Iran from its isolation”.

A negotiator on the nuclear issue between 2007 and 2013, Mr. Jalili firmly opposed the agreement ultimately concluded in 2015 between Iran and world powers, including the United States, which imposed restrictions on nuclear activity. Iranian government in exchange for sanctions relief.

Nuclear negotiations are currently deadlocked after the unilateral withdrawal of the United States in 2018 which reimposed severe economic sanctions in Tehran.

Iran: second round of presidential election pitting a reformist against an ultraconservative

Reform candidate Massoud Pezeshkian (c), after voting in the second round of the presidential election, July 5, 2024 in Tehran, Iran © AFP – ATTA KENARE

His opponent calls for resolving the persistent issue of the compulsory wearing of the veil for women, one of the causes of the vast protest movement which shook the country at the end of 2022 after the death of Mahsa Amini, arrested for not -respect for the strict dress code.

Whatever the result of the vote, the election should have limited repercussions, the president having only limited powers: he is responsible for applying, at the head of the government, the main political guidelines set by the supreme guide, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is the head of state.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116