Iranian First-Round Presidential Elections See Record Low Turnout at 40%

Authorities in Iran have reported a greater turnout in the second round of the presidential election, which has concluded, compared to the historically low participation in the first round last week. According to Iranian media, more than 30 million Iranians cast ballots in the run-off, resulting in a participation percentage of about 50%. 

Similar to the hours-long delays for last week’s vote, this time around, the voting process was prolonged three times till midnight local time in an attempt to increase turnout. The next step was to start counting, and the results should be announced by Saturday.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s top leader, voted and encouraged his countrymen to do the same. He thanked God for the more robust turnout and noted that he had heard people were more invested and enthusiastic than in the previous round.

Following the tragic death of former president Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash in May, Iran conducted a hasty presidential election last Friday. In the first round of the four-way contest, parliamentary member Masoud Pezeshkian earned 42.6% of the vote, while former secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili received 38.8%. The top two finishers were forced to compete in a run-off election, as no one could get 50% of the vote.

In this matchup, former health minister and cardiac specialist Masoud Pezeshkian faces Saeed Jalili, a staunch supporter of Iran’s hard-line anti-American groups and former nuclear negotiator. Despite high-ranking authorities pleading with the electorate to show their support for the Islamic Republic that emerged from the 1979 revolution, the record-low turnout in the first round remained at 40%.

This week, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, emphasized that declining voter participation did not indicate a decline in support for the government. On Friday, he voted again, this time expressing his desire for a higher turnout than what was recorded in the June 28th election.

It is unclear how much of Mr. Pezeshkian’s program he could implement even if he were to win because anti-American and anti-Israel hardliners still hold sway in Iran’s parliament.