Iran’s political hardliner, Ebrahim Raisi, won the country’s recent presidential election on June 19, in a landslide victory after receiving the endorsement of Iran’s supreme leader of the Iranian theocracy Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei. Early reports reveal that the election had the lowest turnout in the country’s history, and suspicions of fraud are growing.

As reported by official sources, Ebrahim Raisi has won the election, with around 90% of the 28.6 million votes cast counted, in an election with just 48% turnout, Raisi’s tally was 17.8 million in his favor, Interior Ministry official Jamal Orfi said in a televised press conference, giving him an unassailable lead.

Far behind, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei got 3.3 million votes, and moderate Abdolnasser Hemmati got 2.4 million, Jamal Orf said. The fourth candidate in the race, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, got about 1 million votes, Orf said.

Raisi, a 60-year-old Shiite cleric who is under U.S. sanctions for alleged human rights abuses, was expected to win after receiving the endorsement of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

His candidacy reportedly provoked widespread apathy among eligible voters in the Islamic Republic. Some, including hard-line former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called for a boycott, Arab News reported.

Voting came to an end at 2 am on Saturday, after the government extended voting to avoid any overcrowding at polling places across the country, both to avoid contagions from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) Virus and to avoid conglomerations that could end in any kind of conflict between sectors.

The paper ballots, placed in large plastic boxes, were counted manually overnight, and authorities reported that they expected to have initial results and turnout figures on Saturday morning as it happened.

As reported by Fox News, Iranian state television tried to downplay the low voter turnout, pointing to the surrounding Gulf Arab sheikhdoms ruled by hereditary leaders and lower turnout in Western democracies to justify the events as reflecting a trend.

However, since the revolution in 1979 overthrew the “shah,” Iran’s own ruling theocracy has itself cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that garnered 98.2% support, which asked whether or not people wanted the Islamic Republic.

Voter apathy stems on the one hand from the devastated state of the economy, which was deepened after the emergence of the pandemic caused by the CCP Virus, and on the other hand from the knowledge that every important decision will continue to go through the totalitarian leader Khamenei, so a change in the presidency, regardless of the candidate, will not bring about major changes. 

Raisi will become the first Iranian president to be under U.S. sanctions, even before taking office. The sanctions were imposed after he was accused of participating in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988.

Raisi’s victory comes at a critical time. Along with major powers, Iran is in talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal after former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned the agreement in 2018 and imposed crippling sanctions that have reduced Iran’s oil revenues after denouncing progress in the Iranian regime’s development of unauthorized nuclear weapons.