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Ebrahim Raisi elected Iran’s new president in landslide victory

TEHRAN, Iran: Ebrahim Raisi, the conservative head of the judiciary, has won the presidential election after 90% of the votes were counted, the interior ministry said on Saturday.

Raisi, 60, received more than 17.8 million out of the 28.6 million votes that have been counted, the interior ministry said, based on preliminary results.

Earlier in the day three out of four candidates in the fray conceded defeat to Raisi, a protégé of Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei who was widely seen as the frontrunner in Friday’s election marred by low turnout and the disqualification of many candidates.

Hardliner Mohsen Rezaei, former commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, received more than 3.3 million votes.

He was followed by former central bank chief Abdolnaser Hemmati, the only moderate in the race, with at least 2.4 million votes, and conservative lawmaker Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi with more than one million votes.

The new president will take office in August as Iran seeks to salvage its tattered nuclear deal with major powers and free itself from punishing US sanctions that have driven a sharp economic downturn. Iranian diplomats have been engaged in talks to revive the deal in the Austrian capital Vienna.

“I hope your government, under the leadership of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will bring comfort and prosperity to our nation,” former central bank chief Hemmati said in a letter, state media reported on Saturday.

Raisi did not immediately acknowledge Hemmati’s concession, nor that of Rezaei, who also conceded a loss.

Hashemi explicitly congratulated Raisi. “I congratulate … Raisi, elected by the nation,” Hashemi said, quoted by Iranian media.

In a statement, outgoing President Hassan Rouhani congratulated the people of Iran and the supreme leader for an “epic and rare presence” in the elections, saying “your glorious and enemy-breaking participation led to the remorse and dejection of enemies and those who wish ill on this nation”.

Rouhani visited Raisi at his office in Tehran to congratulate him in person.

The interior ministry refused to confirm reports that the number of void votes exceeded Rezaei’s vote haul. If true, that would mean for the first time in the history of the Islamic republic, bad votes have finished second place.

Friday’s voting was extended by two hours past the original midnight deadline amid fears of a low turnout of 50% or less. Officials have yet to release turnout figures.

Many voters chose to stay away after the field of some 600 hopefuls including 40 women had been winnowed down to seven candidates, all men, excluding an ex-president and a former parliament speaker.

Three of the vetted candidates dropped out of the race two days before Friday’s election, leaving four candidates in the fray.

Populist former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, one of those who were barred from running by the Guardian Council – a 12-member constitutional vetting body under Khamenei – said he would not vote, declaring in a video message that “I do not want to have a part in this sin”.

The Supreme Leader is the most powerful person in Iran since the 1979 revolution toppled the US-backed monarchy, but the president wields major influence in areas from industrial policy to foreign affairs.

Rouhani, 72, leaves office in August after serving the maximum two consecutive four-year terms allowed under the constitution. His biggest achievement was the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers under which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief.