Defeated hardline Iranian presidential candidate Raisi claims voter fraud

By bne IntelliNews May 29, 2017

Ebrahim Raisi, the hardline candidate comprehensively defeated by incumbent Hassan Rouhani in the May 19 Iranian presidential election, on May 29 complained of voter fraud.

Raisi, a religious judge, has called on the judiciary and the election watchdog to investigate alleged occurrences that took place during the vote that saw him beaten by 57% to 38%, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. However, there was no word on the scale of the fraud that Raisi is claiming.

The Guardian Council, the government body that vets candidates and supervises elections in Iran, has already given its approval to the results, but Raisi reportedly said: "Tampering with the numbers of people's participation is inappropriate. Not sending ballots to centres where the government's opponent has a chance of getting votes is very inappropriate."

He added: "I ask the Guardian Council and the judiciary not to let the people's rights get trampled. If this vote tampering is not looked into, then the people's trust will be damaged."

Raisi, who prior to the election was seen as the odds-on favourite by some analysts to become Iran’s next supreme leader – his credentials are rather less impressive following the election trouncing – is essentially claiming that certain voting locations dubiously ran out of ballots on the day of the election while some constituencies were routinely ignored by the electoral commission, which is run by the Iranian interior ministry.

During the election, reports from several local and foreign news agencies showed photographs of empty voting centres in traditionally conservative southern districts of Tehran, while in the northern more affluent suburbs, where votes tend to be for liberal candidates, lines were coming out of the doors. Tehran correspondent for the New York Times, Thomas Erdbrink, repeatedly noted low turnout being recorded in southern Tehran.

Rouhani, a centrist, was swept to victory by a high turnout of around 73%. Fears that apathy would cause a lot of his core support to stay at home were not realised. Voting was extended by up to six hours in many places to midnight to accommodate the huge numbers of voters.

The hardliners have clearly had their nose put out of joint by the extent of their candidate’s defeat, but they have pledged to press on with their conservative agenda.

One item on Rouhani’s agenda – working for the release of former presidential challengers Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, along with Mousavi's wife, all of whom have been under house arrest since 2011 after calling for protests in support of pro-democracy uprisings across the Middle East – hit trouble on May 29.

"Who are you to break the house arrests?" head of the Iranian judiciary Sadeq Ardeshir Larijani said in reference to Rouhani’s campaign pledge, according to Mizan, the judiciary's news site. Larijani said it was for Iran's Supreme National Security Council to take an initial decision on the detention of the trio, after which the judiciary would take over matters.

The official results for the May 19 election were confirmed by the Interior Ministry as Rouhani – 23,549,616 votes (57.13%); Raisi – 15,786,449 (38.30%); conservative former culture minister Mostafa Mir-Salim – 478,215 (1.16%) and reformist former vice president Mostafa Hashemitaba – 215,450 (0.52%).

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