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Khamenei defends Iran’s 'epic' elections

Iran's supreme leader in a speech Monday defended the latest presidential elections, which saw the lowest voter turnout in the Islamic Republic's history.
Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei meets with the head of the judiciary, president-elect Ebrahim Raisi, and other Judiciary officials in Tehran, June 28, 2021.

In his latest speech on the occasion of judiciary day and in the presence of President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addressed Iran’s June 18 elections and discussed doubts about the judiciary changes made by Raisi.

Khamenei said Iran’s presidential elections were "truly an epic created by the Iranian people.” He said many Western countries and even some Arab countries in the Persian Gulf were hoping for a low turnout given Iran’s tough economic situation and the disqualifications of many candidates, but they were proved wrong. Foreign-funded Persian language television shows such as Voice of America, the British Broadcasting Corporation and Iran International all had mostly negative coverage of Iran’s elections.

Regardless of Khamenei’s claims on the "epic" nature of the vote, Iran saw the lowest turnout in the history of presidential elections in the Islamic Republic at 48%. The main reason for the low turnout was that the Guardian Council had not approved many Reformists or moderates to run, such as Ali Larijani, Eshaq Jahangiri and Mostafa Tajzadeh. Even former hard-line president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was disqualified from running.

Khamenei, distancing himself from the candidate disqualification process, said there are moments when he might have points of disagreement with the Guardian Council but defended their decision, saying they are “pious individuals” and they “act according to the constitution and their religious duties.” Khamenei said foreigners had hoped Iran’s presidential elections would have 20% or 25% participation rate. One factor pushing up the participation was that city council elections took place at the same time, which are particularly important for smaller cities.

Khamenei said that despite all of the circumstances and even the current situation with the coronavirus, the election turnout was a “punch to the chest” of those who were advocating a boycott of the election. He claimed all of the candidates were actually winners — four had remained after the final seven were permitted to run — and the losers of the elections were those who advocated a boycott.

On the debates, which were mild in comparison to previous elections, Khamenei still found room for criticism. He said the “insults and attacks” resembled debates in the US presidential elections in which candidates cursed one another. Khamenei said America’s elections have become “infamous” and Iran should not emulate them.

Khamenei also spoke about the changes President-elect Raisi made during his time in the judiciary. The anti-corruption measures taken by Raisi after the 10-year tenure of his predecessor, Sadegh Larijani, was one of the actions that attracted conservative voters to him. Of course, such measures had the full backing of Khamenei, who had publicly supported them at the time. Khamenei said those measures would continue with even more intensity after Raisi’s departure.

The head of the judiciary is chosen by Khamenei himself. A few names have been suggested for taking over after Raisi assumes office as president. First Deputy of Judiciary Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei and Iran's Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri are two names that have been discussed the most as possible successors.

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