Iran Readies for Election Day
As the final hours before Iran’s presidential elections ticked away on Thursday, several more candidates dropped out of the race, further solidifying front-runner Ebrahim Raisi’s grip on the coveted position. Two conservative politicians, Alireza Zakani and Saeed Jalili, and moderate lawmaker Mohsen Mehralizadeh, all announced they would not compete in Friday’s elections, after the Islamic Republic’s Guardian Council last month disqualified a long list of moderate candidates, drawing sharp criticism from voters, prominent officials and even outgoing President Hassan Rouhani himself. Raisi, currently the nation’s judiciary chief, is widely expected to beat his closest challenger, former central bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati, on the first ballot. Hoping to beef up turnout amid increasingly disaffected voters, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Wednesday reminded Iranians in a special televised speech that their “presence and vote … actually determine the fate of the country, in all major issues.” Opinion polls show turnout could dip to as low as 40%, down from over 73% in the previous race.