Hard-line judge Ebrahim Raisi wins Iran’s presidential election

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June 19 (UPI) — Hard-line conservative judge Ebrahim Raisi won Iran’s presidential election after getting 62% of the vote in initial returns Saturday, prompting his rivals to concede the race.

Iranian Deputy Interior Minister Jamal Araf announced that Raisi had won 17.8 million of the 28.6 million ballots counted as of 11 a.m. local time, the official news agency IRNA reported.

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Among the other contenders, Mohsen Rezaei Mirqaed had garnered 3.3 million votes, Abdolnaser Hemmati received 2.4 million votes and Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh drew 1 million votes.

Raisi’s three opponents have already acknowledged the 60-year-old Shiite cleric as the victor, IRNA reported.

Outgoing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met and congratulated Raisi as the new president-elect Saturday, state media said. His term as the Islamic Republic’s 13th president will begin Aug. 3.

Raisi, 60, a close ally of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who serves as head of the judiciary, lost the 2017 election to Rouhani. This time, Iranian election officials barred many who believed would be Raisi’s stiffest competition, essentially clearing the field for him to win.

He is linked to serious human rights abuse and aligned with Iran’s harshest critics of the West.

Raisi was deputy Tehran prosecutor during the 1988 mass execution of political prisoners. He served on the “death committee,” which interrogated prisoners about their religious beliefs and political affiliations and sent thousands to their deaths, often after trials lasting a few minutes.

The U.S. Treasury has also linked Raisi to a crackdown on Iran’s Green Movement protests in 2009.

The election comes at a critical time for Iran, which is involved in talks with six major powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal three years after former U.S. President Donald Trump abandoned it and re-imposed harsh economic sanctions.

The Biden administration is hoping finalize a deal in the six weeks remaining before Raisi’s new conservative government takes control, Axios reported Friday.

The Organization of Iranian-American Communities is calling for for regime change to bring down the ruling religious party. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo