Hardline judge wins landslide in Iran presidential vote amid low turnout
Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline judge under U.S. sanctions for human rights abuses, secured a landslide victory on Saturday in Iran‘s presidential election after a contest marked by voter apathy over economic hardships and political restrictions.
With some 90% of the 28.6 million ballots counted, Raisi’s tally was 17.8 million, interior ministry official Jamal Orfi said, giving him an unassailable lead.
Turnout in Friday’s four-man race was a record low of around 48%.
Appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the high-profile job of judiciary chief in 2019, Raisi was placed under U.S. sanctions a few months later over human rights violations.
Those included the role that human rights group say Raisi played in the executions of thousands of political prisoners in the 1988 and in the violent suppression of unrest in 2009.
Iran has never acknowledged the mass executions, and Raisi himself has never publicly addressed allegations about his role.
Seen by analysts and insiders as representing the security establishment at its most fearsome, Raisi had been widely tipped to win the contest, thanks to Khamenei’s endorsement.
Amnesty International’s Secretary General Agnès Callamard said Raisi’s election win was “a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran“.
“We continue to call for Ebrahim Raisi to be investigated for his involvement in past and ongoing crimes under international law, including by states that exercise universal jurisdiction,” she said in a statement.
Outgoing pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani visited Raisi at his office to congratulate him, and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said he would lead Iran well.
“We will stand by and cooperate fully with the president-elect for the next 45 days, when the new government takes charge,” state media quoted Rouhani as saying.
Raisi’s election comes at a critical time.
Iran and six major powers are in talks to revive their 2015 nuclear deal. Then U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the deal in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions that have squeezed Iran‘s oil income.
With Iran‘s ruling clerics aware their political fortunes rely on tackling worsening economic hardships, Raisi’s win will not disrupt Iran‘s effort to revive the pact and break free of tough U.S. oil and financial sanctions.
Khamenei, not the president, has the last say on all issue of state such as Iran‘s foreign and nuclear policies.
“We will make every effort in the new government to solve the problem of people’s livelihoods,” Raisi said, according to state media.
Seeking to win over voters preoccupied by bread-and-butter issues, Raisi has promised to create millions of jobs and tackle inflation, without offering a detailed political or economic programme.
Hoping to boost their legitimacy, the country’s clerical rulers had urged people to turn out and vote on Friday, but simmering anger over economic hardships and curbs on freedoms kept many Iranians at home.
Hundreds of dissidents, at home and abroad, had called for a boycott. However, Khamenei said the turnout displayed the clerical establishment’s popularity.
Another deterrent for many pro-reform voters was a lack of choice, after a hardline election body barred heavyweight moderates and conservatives from standing.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson said on Friday: “Iranians were denied their right to choose their own leaders in a free and fair electoral process” – a likely reference to the disqualification of candidates.
Many pro-reform Iranians fear Raisi’s presidency could usher in more repression.
“I am scared. I don’t want to go back to jail again. I am certain that any kind of dissent will not be tolerated,” said Hamidreza, who declined to give his full name. He was jailed for participating in unrest in 2019 that broke out over fuel price hikes and quickly turned political.
Analysts say the election win could increase Raisi’s chances of succeeding Khamenei, who himself served two terms as president before becoming supreme leader in 1989.
IEA special forces kill key Daesh commander in eastern Afghanistan
The Islamic Emirate’s special forces in an operation on Wednesday killed a top Daesh commander along with his accomplice in eastern Nangarhar province, state-run Bakhtar news agency reported.
This Daesh commander’s name was reportedly “Turab”.
The operation was conducted on Wednesday evening in Wuch Tangi village of Shiwa district in eastern Nangarhar province, according to the provincial officials reported by Bakhtar news agency.
30 Afghan students off to Kazakhstan to continue their studies
The Ministry of Higher Education said on Thursday that 30 Afghan students will soon leave for Kazakhstan where they will continue their studies in bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.
At a meeting with the students held at the Ministry of Higher Education, Mufti Mohammad Tahir Ahmad, the deputy minister of student affairs, expressed his gratitude to Kazakhstan for awarding scholarships to Afghans and emphasized the need to strengthen relations with the countries in the scientific and academic sectors.
Ahmad said the students were ambassadors of their country and stated that: “Besides preserving your religious and national values, you must also respect the laws and culture of the host country. Pay more attention to your learning and knowledge.”
He added that: “The eyes of hope of the people and the system are fixed on you, so that after acquiring science and knowledge, you will play your part in the development of your country.”
Dr. Nazar Mohammad Irfan, the head of foreign relations and scholarship regulation of the Ministry of Higher Education, also addressed the students and said Kazakhstan was among the countries that stood by the people of Afghanistan in difficult times and continued their cooperation in various sectors, especially higher education.
He also asked the students to make the most of this opportunity and build their country with their own hands.
Mohammad Ashraf Ghairat, the academic vice president of Kabul University, spoke about the value of science and knowledge and the objectives of the Ministry of Higher Education in the area of education and training of young staff from the perspective of the holy religion of Islam and religious beliefs, and asked the students to make the basis and focus of all their activities on “Islamic belief”.
According to the ministry, 256 people took part in a scholarship selection exam, and 30 students were chosen. They will pursue bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in the fields of economics, computer science, law, physics, biology and chemistry.
Army corps commander visits Nimroz border checkpoints
The Ministry of National Defense of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) says that Alhaji Mullah Sharafuddin Taqi, the commander of the 215 Azam Army Corps, traveled to Nimroz province on Wednesday, at the head of a delegation and visited the 3rd and 5th border checkpoints located on the border with Iran.
The defense ministry said in a statement that the commander met with Nimroz officials, including the provincial police chief, and discussed the need to improve coordination between the forces and border protection.
Referring to the recent cross-border skirmish with Iran, the commander of the 215 Azam Army Corps said: “The Islamic Emirate considers border protection its responsibility and is committed to establishing diplomatic relations with neighboring countries.”
However, he called the forces the defenders of borders, territorial integrity and independence of the country and promised to cooperate in solving their problems.
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