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Ebrahim Raisi heads for easy win in Iranian elections

Iran’s Foreign Minister said on Saturday that hardline judge Ebrahim Raisi was the country’s new elected president and everyone would have to work with him from now on.

Mohammad Javad Zarif, speaking a day after millions of Iranians voted in a contest that critics boycotted over economic woes and political restrictions, said Raisi would lead Iran well.

Zarif also told a diplomacy forum in the Turkish resort of Antalya that issues in Iran’s nuclear talks with Western powers were not insurmountable and he hoped to achieve a result before August, according to Reuters.

Raisi, the head of the judiciary is seen as close to the 81-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ultimate political power in Iran.

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Iran’s moderate presidential candidate congratulated his hardline rival hardline judge Ebrahim Raisi for winning the election, Iranian state media reported on Saturday, as the interior ministry said counting of the votes continued.

Millions of Iranians voted on Friday in a contest that has been expected to hand the presidency to Raisi, a hardline judge who is subject to US sanctions for alleged human rights abuses, including overseeing the executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.

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“I hope your administration, under the leadership of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will make the Islamic Republic proud, improve livelihood and ensure the nation’s well-being and welfare,” said former central bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati in a letter, media said.

Voting on Friday was extended by two hours past the original midnight deadline amid fears of a low turnout of 50 per cent or less. The paper ballots were being counted overnight and the result is expected by around noon (0730 GMT).

Many voters chose to stay away after the field of some 600 hopefuls was winnowed down to seven candidates, all men, excluding an ex-president and a former parliament speaker.

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Three of the vetted candidates dropped out of the race two days before Friday’s election, and two of them threw their support behind Raisi.

Former populist president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, one of those who was disqualified by the powerful 12-member Guardian Council of clerics and jurists, joined those who said they would not cast their ballot.

Raisi’s only rival from the reformist camp was the low-profile former central bank chief Abdolnaser Hemmati, 65, who had polled in the low single digits before the election.

Iran’s electorate, of now almost 60 million eligible voters, has delivered surprise results before, observers warn. If no clear winner emerges, a runoff will be held next Friday.

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