As you read this, Iranians are going to the polls. The polls are expected to close at 6:00 pm local time, although they have run until midnight in the past. About 56 million Iranians are eligible to vote today.
In a surprising turn of events, Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf dropped out in favor of hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi (New York Times). This was Ghalibaf’s third unsuccessful run, and it is possible he pulled out to save himself from embarrassment. According to recent polls, if Raisi takes over Ghalibaf’s support base, then the candidate will win over 50 percent of the vote, with Hassan Rouhani courting 42 percent. However, it is unlikely that Raisi will inherit all of Ghalibaf’s supporters. Raisi’s team said Ghalibaf would be appointed vice president if the cleric is elected president (Al-Monitor).
As expected, Rouhani’s vice president Eshaq Jahangiri dropped out of the election (AP). Jahangiri threw his weight behind his president.
Reformist candidate Mostafa Hashemitaba also backed out of the race in favor of Rouhani. However, he did not formally drop out of the election. Mostafa Mirsalim hasn’t formally dropped out either, but he was seen campaigning alongside Raisi (BBC Persian). Mirasalim and Hashemitaba’s campaigns have gained no traction although their names are on the ballot today. By any measure, only Rouhani and Raisi are in this race. There will not be a second round of elections.
At a rally in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, Rouhani called the presidential election a “historical decision” (AP). He said, “Our nation will announce if it continues on the path of peacefulness or if it wants to choose tension. We should not let Iran become isolated again. We want constructive communication with the world.”
Rouhani delivered his last speech in Mashhad before the election, the home city of his rival (Al-Monitor). His rally took place at the same time as Ebrahim Raisi’s. It was the boldest and most outspoken speech of Rouhani’s three-week campaign. Rouhani told the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Basij to “stay out of politics.” Aiming directly at Raisi’s father-in-law, who leads Friday prayer in Mashhad, Rouhani said, “We have one government, one leader, and one constitution; and for each city we do not need a separate leader.” Rouhani also attacked Raisi: “You have all the financial resources, all the institutions of Mashhad. What have you done for the marginalized?” Rouhani went after almost all major figures within the Iranian political establishment, including the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) and judiciary, with the exception of the supreme leader. Khamenei denounced the heated rhetoric of Iran's presidential election campaign as “unworthy” (Reuters) It was apparently a rebuke of Rouhani's attacks on Raisi.
Iranians are circulating photos on social media of handouts from the Raisi campaign (Twitter). Everything from rice, oil, tomato paste, to 1 million rial gift cards (about $30).
Green movement leaders under house arrest will vote for Rouhani (Reuters). According to the opposition website Kalameh, Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife Zahra Ranavard have requested security forces bring a mobile ballot box to their homes so they can cast a vote. Also, the Khomeini family broke taboo and backed Rouhani (Al-Monitor).
The latest polls from the iPPO Group:
Hassan Rouhani: 59- 67 percent
Ebrahim Raisi: 28- 36 percent
Incumbent president projected to win
The latest polls from the Iranian Student Polling Agency:
Rouhani: 41.6 percent
Raisi: 26.7 percent
Incumbent president projected to win
There is concern about turnout in this presidential election (AP). According to a report by state media IRNA, over a third of 6,000 eligible voters who were polled said they will not vote. The poll did not provide a margin of error. However, the New York Times Tehran bureau chief reported that he's seeing the highest turn out in well over a decade (Twitter). At the same time, there are concerns that the IRGC and Basij will meddle today, putting Raisi ahead of the race. Read more about it here: Iran’s tense presidential election sparks fears of a rigged finale (Washington Post) And here: Taboo-breaking election tests how much dissent Iran can handle (Christian Science Monitor).
What this election is really about: The short-term stability of the system versus long-term survival of the revolution (International Crisis Group).
FYI: Iranian-Americans can vote at polling stations in over a dozen states.
Here are some good reads:
An explainer on the platforms of eachIranian presidential candidate (Bloomberg).
These seven charts illustrate why Rouhani could lose the election (Bloomberg).
Rouhani Scorecard: Did Iran's president deliver? (RFERL)
The rise of Raisi: How similar is it to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s popularity in 2005? (IranWire)
Iran has its own hardline populist and he’s on the rise (New York Times).
Here are the smears marring Iran’s election (RFERL).
How Iran became an undemocratic democracy (New York Times).
The election is so critical that actors, directors, and human rights defenders are advocating for Rouhani (LobeLog).
During this election, candidates are using Instagram to court young voters (New York Times).
In Iran's presidential election: Telegram rules! (IranWire)