10 hours after polling stations opened, less than a quarter of eligible voters casted ballots in the lowest turnout of Iranian election’s history.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cast the ceremonial first ballot after polls opened at 7am and urged people to come out and choose from the limited field of candidates that sparked public anger and calls for an election boycott.
Mr Khamenei’s hard-line protege, judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi, is tipped to beat the three other candidates left in the race after three others withdrew in the past week.
“Each vote counts … come and vote and choose your president … this is important for the future of your country,” Mr Khamenei said after casting his vote in the capital Tehran.
Pre-election polling by the Iranian Students Polling Agency found only 40 per cent of the 59.3 million eligible Iranians intended to vote. No presidential race since the republic was founded in 1979 has had a turnout below 50 per cent. By about 4.45pm, only about 14 million people, or 23 per cent of eligible voters, had cast their votes, according to the government-linked Fars news agency.The voting faced early difficulties, with reports of malfunctioning electronic voting machines at some polling locations in Tehran and across the country, and a shortage of paper ballots at others. The governor of Tehran, Anoushirvan Mohseni Bandpay, said 79 polling stations in the capital faced technical issues.
Voting also got under way around the world at Iran’s various consulates and embassies. Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said there were 133 diplomatic missions and 234 polling stations abroad where Iranians could vote. Singapore, Yemen and Canada are the only countries where Iranian expats will not be able to vote.
In the United Arab Emirates, voting is taking place at the Iranian consulate in Dubai. The polling opened 8am local time. Mirroring the low turnout in Iran and other locations around the world, handfuls of Iranians filtered in and out of the consulate, barely having to wait to cast their ballots. Those that showed up were seemingly conservative older voters and mostly men.
Big-name politicians went to the polls as well, including reformist leader and former president Mohammad Khatami. Mr Khatami’s images and name are banned from being published by Iranian media because of his support for the protests against alleged fraud in the 2009 presidential election that gave Mahmoud Ahmedinejad a second term.
Foreign Minister Javad Zarif used the polling station in Antalya while on a diplomatic trip to Turkey.