Polls open on Friday (June 18) for Iran’s presidential election with the vote seen as referendum on political and economic crises and with analysts considering it the year’s most important political event for the oil market. The election also carries implications for a wider Middle East already roiled by years of tensions between Tehran and the West.
Iran’s current President Hassan Rouhani who has been in office since 2013 and his administration reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, by law cannot seek a third term.
Four men will be on the ballot (Abdolnasser Hemmati, Mohsen Rezaei, Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi and Ebrahim Raisi), but the presidential race is now seen as a contest between the moderate
former central bank chief, Abdolnasser Hemmati, and the head of Iran’s judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, a thorough hard-liner and protégé of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Raisi served four decades in Iran’s judiciary and ran but lost to Rouhani in the 2017 election.
Hemmati, 64, an economics professor, has served for several years as the head of Iran’s Central Bank under Rouhani, He has also worked as the head of both private and government banks, as well as Iran’s central insurance agency. He also once served as Iran’s ambassador to China for a short period.
Hashemi, 50, an ear-nose-and-throat specialist surgeon by profession, has served as a parliament member since 2007. Hashemi has vowed to restore Iran’s stock market in the first three days in office.
Rezaei, 66, a former leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, serves now as the secretary of Expediency Council.
The results will be announced in three days following a manual count. If no candidate has received 50% of the votes, then the election will proceed into a second round to take place the Friday following the announcement of the results.
In his weekly Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Rouhani urged the public to vote, state TV reported. “It does not do us any good if the election is cold, lacks people, and its ballots are sparsely populated,” he said.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has also urged people to turn out in large numbers, saying it would help avert “foreign pressures” on the Islamic Republic.
“We look at this election as the most important political milestone of 2021 for the global oil market,” said Pavel Molchanov, energy analyst at Raymond James, in a research note dated Monday.
“The all-but-certain victory of a hard-liner is likely to slow down the nuclear talks — and, as an off-chance scenario, might even halt them,” said Molchanov. “This would mean that U.S. secondary sanctions last longer, postponing the return of Iranian crude exports” of 1.5 million to 2 million barrels per day onto the global market.
Beyond that, the new leadership in Tehran is “likely to have less of a focus on economic modernization as compared to the past eight years under the moderate presidency” of Rouhani, which may eventually lead to less growth in Iran’s oil supply, he said.
Iran’s inflation rate remains at about 30 percent while unemployment hovers above 12 percent.
Raisi won a landslide victory in the country’s presidential election as expected on Saturday. With all 28.9 million ballots counted, Raisi won 61.95% of the vote. Turnout was a record low of around 48.8%. The 60-year-old arch-conservative cleric will take office in August.
Syrian President Bashar Assad was one of the first to welcome the win, sending his “warmest congratulations” in a statement. Congratulations also came in from Russia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates as well as Oman.
With reporting by AP, Al Jazeera, Euronews, Reuters