The Latest | Polls close in Iran after election to replace a president killed in a helicopter crash (2024)

Iranians voted on Friday to replace the late President Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a May helicopter crash in the country’s northwest along with the foreign minister and several other officials.

Analysts broadly described the race as a three-way contest. There are two hard-liners, former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and the parliament speaker, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf. Then there’s the reformist candidate Masoud Pezeshkian, who has aligned himself with those seeking a return to the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

After record-low turnout in recent elections, it remains unclear how many Iranians will take part in Friday’s poll.

While 85-year-old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has final say on all matters of state, presidents can bend Iran toward confrontation or negotiations with the West.

Currently:

— As Iran’s presidential vote looms, tensions boil over regarding a renewed headscarf crackdown.

— An analysis explores how no matter who wins Iran’s election, much may hinge for Tehran on the ‘Great Satan,’ the United States.

— A “Hamster” cryptocurrency craze gripping Iran highlights its economic malaise.

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Over 50 countries go to the polls in 2024

  • The year will test even the most robust democracies. Read more on what’s to come here.
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  • Keep track of the latest AP elections coverage from around the world here.

— Iran’s imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi, who already called for a boycott of the vote, is been sentenced to another year in prison.

— Follow AP’s coverage of the Iranian presidential election at https://apnews.com/hub/iran.

Here is the latest:

Polls close in Iran and counting begins. Initial results are expected on Saturday

Polls closed shortly after midnight on Friday across Iran, following three extensions of voting hours.

Iranian state media said those who were still waiting at the polling stations would be allowed to cast their ballots but no one else would be allowed in after that. Counting was to begin immediately, with initial results expected on Saturday, the reports said.

Earlier in the evening, as the weather cooled off a little, more people headed to vote and long lines formed outside polling stations in downtown Tehran and in southern parts of the Iranian capital.

Late voters rush to Tehran polling stations, line up to cast their ballots as voting hours are extended till midnight

Iran’s state TV says the election authority has extended voting for another two hours, until midnight, in the country’s presidential election. Under Iranian law that’s the limit — polls have to close at midnight as elections should only be held in one day.

State TV showed many waiting in line to vote as more people headed to the polling stations when the weather cooled off a little in the evening. Polling stations in both downtown and in southern Tehran saw lines of people outside.

Among the late voters in downtown Tehran was Maziar Azimi, a 29-year-old car mechanic, who said he will vote for the sole reformist candidate, Masoud Pezeshkian.

“He is honest and cares about the life of the people who want a calm country,” Azimi said.

Maryam Ebrahim, 36, a teacher, said she voted for hard-liner Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, the country’s parliament speaker, “since he is able to work with everyone.”

“Qalibaf has been in the parliament for many years and worked with all factions, so he can manage differences,” she said.

Truck driver Ahmad Zarei, 49, said he also voted for Qalibaf as he doesn’t want to see the next president “drive the nation into chaos.”

“Qalibaf wants to pursue a reconstruction of the country as I see it,” he added.

Iran’s former top diplomat urges those who have not voted yet to do so before it’s too late

Iran’s former foreign minister, Mohmmad Javad Zarif, has posted a video on his Instagram page after voting hours were extended on Friday, urging those who have not voted yet to do so before it’s too late.

He also appealed on them to urge their friends to also head to the polls. A higher turnout is expected to favor a reformist candidate.

Zarif, who as foreign minister helped negotiate the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, said that a bad president could make things worse.

“Some say that a president can reform a little, but he can make things much worse,” Zarif said in the video.

Authorities said the extension in voting hours till 10 p.m. followed the “presence of people in polling stations.” Another extension is likely until nearly midnight.

More voters turning out in Tehran as polling time extended to 10 p.m.

Iran’s state TV says the country’s election authority has extended polls for two more hours until 10 p.m. local time. Authorities said the extension came “following the presence of people in polling stations.”

Successive extensions are expected until nearly midnight.

As the weather got cooler on Friday’s cloudy evening, the number of people waiting in line to vote at one of the polling stations in the north of Tehran, a mosque next to a main street, grew.

About 100 people formed a line outside of the mosque. The majority of those present were supporters of hard-line candidate Saeed Jalili.

Election authority extends polls for two hours

Iran’s election authority has extended the polling time by two hours until 8 p.m. local time, as per tradition in the country.

Authorities said the extension came after more voters turned up at polling stations late Friday. Successive extensions are expected until nearly midnight.

Many Iranians did not turn out to vote earlier Friday because it is a weekend in the country and because of the hot weather. Many voters reportedly cast their ballots in the evening in previous elections.

Iran condemns US envoy’s comments on election

An Iranian foreign ministry spokesman has condemned the U.S. stance on Iran’s presidential elections, describing it as interference, and said the Iranian people will respond to such interventionist statements with a high turnout, state-run IRNA news agency reported Friday.

Nasser Kanaani on Friday condemned US “interference” in its domestic affairs, after the U.S. Deputy Special Envoy for Iran Abram Paley had said that Friday’s election was not expected to change Iran’s direction.

“As the Iranian regime prepares for its presidential elections, the U.S. unfortunately has no expectation of free and fair elections or fundamental change in Iran’s direction,” Abram Paley said in a series of posts on his X account on Wednesday.

Former opposition leader boycotts election

A former Iranian opposition leader says he is boycotting Friday’s election.

Zahra Mousavi, the daughter of former opposition leader and Iran’s last prime minister Mir Hossein Mousavi, said in her Instagram account that her parents have said they are not voting after being asked by security officials if they need a ballot box to be taken to their residence.

Iran provides mobile ballot boxes to those who cannot go to polling stations. Mousavi and his wife, Zahra Rahnavard, have been under house arrest in their home near Khamenei’s official residence in Tehran since 2011.

Mousavi, 82, served as Iran’s prime minister under President Ali Khamenei, now Supreme Leader, before the position was eliminated in 1989. Mousavi’s own disputed election loss in 2009 led to the widespread Green Movement protests that security forces also put down.

Iranian authorities encouraging people to vote

Authorities in Iran are seeking to encourage people to vote in Friday’s presidential elections with news videos and images.

A video by an Iranian news channel, yjc.ir, showed people lining up in the southeastern city of Kerman to vote in a polling station next to the grave of Gen. Qassim Soleimani, who was killed in a 2020 U.S. drone attack. Soleimani, a top military commander, was widely seen as a popular figure of national resilience in the face of four decades of U.S. pressure.

Other images showed that Iran’s religious minorities, including Iranian Christians and Jewish leaders, are also taking part in the vote.

More than 61 million Iranians over the age of 18 are eligible to vote, but turnout is expected to be low amid growing public apathy after years of economic woes, mass protests and tensions in the Middle East.

Parliament Speaker

Qalibaf and hard-line candidate Jalili cast their votes

Dozens of supporters have gathered around hard-line candidate Saeed Jalili as he cast his vote at a ballot station in south of Tehran, chanting “we are proud of Jalili.”

The 58-year-old Jaili, a hard-line politician and former senior nuclear negotiator, smiled as supporters surrounded him and tried to shake his hand. He did not make any speech after voting. Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, the Speaker of Parliament and the highest-ranking official within the theocracy to be seeking the presidency, also cast his vote in the south of Tehran. He then visited the grave of the country’s late foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, who died in a helicopter crash that killed President Ebrahim Raisi in May.

Iranians vote in Syria

DAMASCUS, Syria — In the Syrian capital of Damascus, voters trickled into the Iranian embassy Friday morning. Iranian Ambassador Hossein Akbari said seven polling stations have been set up in Damascus and others throughout the country, where an estimated 12,000 Iranian citizens live.

“Iranians have been living in Syria for a long time, possibly up to four generations ago,” Akbari said. “Many of them do not even master the Farsi language, but they participate significantly in these elections.”

Akbari paid tribute to the memory of late President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash in May, and said that Iran is ready to “renew our pledge and loyalty to the blood of the martyrs in Syria.” Iran, along with Russia, is the strongest ally of the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad and its intervention helped to turn the tide of the Syrian civil war.

Sadegh Ramadani, 60, a professor of Farsi at Damascus University, 60, who voted in the embassy, said the election after Raisi’s death is “extremely important,”

“The participation of people ... from across the spectrum, all ethnicities and sects is very important and will raise our voice to the world,” he said. “There is really real competition between Islamists and reformists.”

Sole reform candidate says he’ll seek better ties ‘with all countries except Israel’

The sole reformist running in Iran’s presidential election told journalists after voting: “God willing, we will try to have friendly relations with all countries except Israel.”

The remark by Masoud Pezeshkian, a 69-year-old heart surgeon who seeks a return to the atomic accord and better relations with the West, came after he faced a thinly veiled warning from Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over his outreach to the United States.

With the comment, Pezeshkian signals his effort to energize those who want more engagement with the West after the collapse of the country’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. However, close ties to the West — particularly the U.S. — would be anathema to the hard-liners he faces.

In Iraq, Iranian workers, pilgrims and prisoners cast votes abroad

BAGHDAD — Iranian residents of Iraq and pilgrims visiting Shiite religious shrines cast votes Friday at the country’s six Iranian consulates in federal Iraq and the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north, and at mobile voting stations in other areas of the country.

“We have fixed centers, consulates and mobile polling stations that go to (Iranian) workers in companies operating in Iraq,” said Mohammad Kazem Al-Sadegh, Iran’s ambassador to Iraq. “Even some prisoners who are present have coordinated with the government so that they can cast their votes. The electoral process will go smoothly today, God willing.”

Baghdad has close relations with Tehran, and current Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani came to power with the support of a coalition of pro-Iran factions. At the same time, Iraq has attempted to maintain good economic and military relations with Washington.

That balance has become increasingly difficult over the past nine months against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza. Iranian-backed Iraqi militias have launched drone attacks against U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria and targets in Israel.

The only cleric in the race is accused of violating human rights and promises change in foreign policy

Candidate Mostafa Pourmohammadi, the only Shiite cleric running, cast his vote in Tehran and expressed hope for high turnout.

Pourmohammadi, who served as interior minister under hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and later as justice minister under relative moderate President Hassan Rouhani, said “We hope that our people turn today into one of the best days in their history with a good choice and high turnout.”

In 2006, the United States State Department declared Pourmohammadi a “notorious human rights violator,” accusing him of playing a leading role in the mass execution of several thousand political prisoners at Tehran’s notorious Evin prison in 1988. The State Department also linked him to the so-called “chain murders” of activists and others in the 1990s.

He’s insisted the next president must deal with the world and criticized Iran’s arming of Russia in the war in Ukraine — not because the weapons are used to kill of civilians, but because he felt Tehran isn’t getting enough back from Moscow for its support.

His campaign is likely counting on the backing of clerics and traditionalists.

With turnout still unclear, more voters share their thoughts

As Iranian state TV showed people lined up to vote, most of the polling stations The Associated Press visited in early hours of voting — mostly on the north side of Tehran — were not crowded.

Mahmoud Darrehei, a 49-year-old teacher, said he voted for heart surgeon Masoud Pezeshkian, the only reformist candidate in the race. “This is the first time I’ve voted since 2005,” adding that he saw Pezeshkian as able to solve problems caused by years of hard-line governments.

At another polling station, Maryam Aalipour, 32, a mother of two clad head-to-toe in a black veil, said she voted for hard-line former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili. “He is the cleanest candidate in the election. He knows all problems of the country and he is able to resist the U.S. pressures,” she said.

Aria Rahimi, a 37-year-old who runs in a shop in Tehran’s upmarket Mandela Street, said he voted for Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, the speaker of parliament. “I voted for Qalibaf before opening the shop,” he said. “We need a president who has experience in managing some important body like parliament or police. Qalibaf is the best among them in this regard.”

Iranian voters speak

As voters cast ballots in Iran’s presidential election, some are sharing their thoughts with The Associated Press.

Toosi, who gave only his first name, said he would cast his ballot for someone “who listens to the leader, is revolutionary and is loyal to the principles of the revolution.”

“Someone who’s not focused on the West, but focusing on our domestic capacities, on our youth,” he added. “Someone who is obsessed about the people and has plans for future and has a very good track record.”

Toosi’s comments tracked with what others supporting a hard-line view have said in the campaign.

Another voter, who gave his name as Ghoochian, said he backed Masoud Pezeshkian, the race’s sole reformist candidate.

“I’ve know him for years,” the man said. “His stances, honesty and wholesomeness make him the best option. That’s why I voted for him.”

Reformist ex-foreign minister says voting is the answer to hard-liners

A former Iranian foreign minister who reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers has offered a positive assessment of the chances of the sole reformist candidate in Iran’s presidential election.

Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke Friday at a polling station in Tehran after casting his ballot. Zarif has been a key advocate for the heart surgeon Masoud Pezeshkian, who faces three hard-liners in the election.

“Hopefully, people will go and choose for themselves, and hopefully, if there is a large turnout, it will become clear who is the majority and who is the minority,” Zarif said.

Zarif also quoted what he said was a foreign proverb abroad, that bad politicians are elected by good people who do not vote. “Now is an opportunity to vote,” he added.

Zarif and Pezeshkian received a thinly veiled warning from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei earlier in the week over their desire to negotiate with the West, particularly the United States.

Iran’s acting president says he has no security concerns about vote

Iran’s acting president Mohammad Mokhber has cast his vote and said that there are no security concerns in election.

“We have no security concerns for the elections,” Mokhber said in comments aired by state television. “The polling stations and its branches are properly placed in such a way that there is no point in the country or even outside the country where voting is not possible.”

Mokhber has served as acting president in the wake of the May helicopter crash that killed President Ebrahim Raisi. He was Raisi’s first vice president, but did not apply to run in the election.

Supreme leader calls for public to vote

Iran’s supreme leader called on the public to vote in the snap election to replace hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash in May.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave brief remarks Friday, speaking to journalists gathered in Tehran to cover him voting.

“I don’t see any reason for doubt,” Khamenei said at the ceremony in a mosque attached to his offices.

Khamenei said a high turnout was a “definite need” for the Islamic Republic. He also called the election an “important political test.”

Raisi, 63, had been seen as a protégé of Khamenei and a possible successor for the supreme leader position in Iran, which has final say over all matters of state in the Shiite theocracy.

How does Iran vote?

Any Iranian 18 or older can vote in Friday’s election. There are 58,640 polling centers around the country, set up in mosques, schools and other public buildings. A voter first needs to show their national ID card and fill out a form. They then dip an index fingers in ink, making a print on the form, while officials stamp their ID so they can’t vote twice. On the secret ballot, a voter writes down the name and the numerical code of the candidate they are voting for and drops it into a ballot box. Voting lasts from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., though authorities routinely keep polls open at least several hours later.

What power does an Iranian president have?

Iranian presidents serve four-year terms and are limited to serving two terms. Iran’s president is subordinate to the supreme leader and over the recent years, the supreme leader’s power appears to have grown stronger amid tensions with the West. However, a president can bend the state’s policies on both domestic issue and foreign affairs. Former President Hassan Rouhani, for example, struck the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers with the blessing of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The hard-line tact taken by the late President Ebrahim Raisi also had Khamenei’s backing.

How is Iran ruled?

Iran describes itself as an Islamic Republic. The Shiite theocracy holds elections and has elected representatives passing laws and governing on behalf of its people. However, the supreme leader has the final say on all state matters and the Guardian Council must approve all laws passed by the parliament. Those who led Iran’s Green Movement after hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed 2009 re-election remain under house arrest. Security forces answering only to the supreme leader also routinely arrest dual nationals and foreigners, using them as pawns in international negotiations. Mass protests in recent years have seen bloody crackdowns on dissent. Meanwhile, hard-liners now hold all levers of power within the country. The Guardian Council approves all candidates and also has never allowed a woman to run for president. It routinely rejects candidates calling for dramatic reform, stifling change.

The Latest | Polls close in Iran after election to replace a president killed in a helicopter crash (2024)

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