Congratulations poured in for Iranian cleric Ebrahim Raisi on Saturday for winning presidential elections even before official results were announced.
Iran’s outgoing President Hassan Rouhani said his successor had been elected in the previous day’s vote, without naming the widely expected winner, Raisi.
“I congratulate the people on their choice,” said Rouhani. “My official congratulations will come later, but we know who got enough votes in this election and who is elected today by the people.”
The other two ultraconservative candidates — Mohsen Rezai and Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi — explicitly congratulated Raisi.
“I congratulate … Raisi, elected by the nation,” Ghazizadeh-Hashemi said, quoted by Iranian media.
And Rezai tweeted that he hoped Raisi could build “a strong and popular government to solve the country’s problems”.
The only reformist in the race, former central bank governor Abdolnasser Hemmati, also tweeted his congratulations to Raisi.
The sole moderate in Iran’s presidential election conceded his loss early Saturday to the country’s hard-line judiciary chief.
It signaled the protege of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had won a vote he dominated after the disqualification of his strongest competition.
Counting, however, continued from Friday’s vote and authorities have yet to offer any official results.
Opinion polling by state-linked organizations, along with analysts, indicated that Raisi, who already is under U.S.sanctions, was the front-runner in a field of only four candidates.
That led to widespread apathy among eligible voters in the Islamic Republic, which long has held up turnout as a sign of support for the theocracy since its 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Hemmati offered his congratulations on Instagram to Raisi early Saturday.
“I hope your administration provides causes for pride for the Islamic Republic of Iran, improves the economy and life with comfort and welfare for the great nation of Iran,” he wrote.
On Twitter, Rezaei praised Khamenei and the Iranian people for taking part in the vote.
“God willing, the decisive election of my esteemed brother, Ayatollah Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, promises the establishment of a strong and popular government to solve the country’s problems,” Rezaei wrote.
As night fell Friday, turnout appeared far lower than in Iran’s last presidential election in 2017.
At one polling place inside a mosque in central Tehran, a Shiite cleric played soccer with a young boy as most of its workers napped in a courtyard.
At another, officials watched videos on their mobile phones as state television blared beside them, offering only tight shots of locations around the country, as opposed to the long, snaking lines of past elections.
Balloting came to a close at 2.a.m.
Saturday, after the government extended voting to accommodate what it called “crowding” at several polling places nationwide.
Paper ballots, stuffed into large plastic boxes, were to be counted by hand through the night, and authorities said they expected to have initial results and turnout figures Saturday morning at the earliest.
“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls.
“I have no candidate here.” (With inputs from AFP and AP)