Defeated Hardline Candidate Accuses Rouhani of Fraud in Iranian Election

Undated combined photo shows Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (L) and Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, a former attorney general. Voting got under way on May 19, 2017, for Iran's presidential election, widely seen as a choice between moderate reformist Rouhani and hard-line conservative Raisi. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo (Photo by Kyodo News via Getty …
Kyodo News via Getty Images

Cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who emerged as the leading rival to incumbent Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the recent election, has accused Rouhani of using vote fraud to retain his office. Raisi demanded a full investigation.

Raisi’s loss seems well beyond the margin of fraud – Rouhani won by 57 to 38 percent – but Reuters suspects the allegations will “stoke up Raisi’s conservative supporters.”

Raisi declared to a gathering of his supporters, according to Iran’s state-run Fars news agency:

Tampering with the numbers of people’s participation is inappropriate. Not sending ballots to centers where the government’s opponent has a chance of getting votes is very inappropriate. I ask the Guardian Council and the judiciary not to let the people’s rights get trampled. If this vote-tampering is not looked into, then the people’s trust will be damaged.

The Guardian Council is one of the most powerful institutions in Iranian politics, a fusion of six Islamic scholars appointed by the Supreme Leader – currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but Raisi is seen as a top contender for the job after his death – and six jurists from the secular side of the Iranian government. 

The Council decides which candidates are allowed to run in the presidential election, typically striking most of them from the ballot. In the recently concluded race, over 1,000 candidates applied, but only six were permitted to run at first, with another two added later after Khamenei’s personal intervention. All of the female candidates were stricken from the ballot.

The Guardian Council also certifies the winner of the election and did so on Tuesday, evidently dismissing Raisi’s complaints. However, a Guardian Council spokesman said some complaints about electoral violations have been “referred to the judiciary.”

Interestingly, the Supreme Leader warned about possible vote fraud before the election, but he seemed to be talking about foreign agents disrupting the election somehow. “The Iranian people have enemies. In the face of the enemy, the people’s countenance should indicate willpower, conviction, self-confidence, calm, and equilibrium,” he said.

On the other hand, Khamenei has said that challenging election results could “serve the interests” of Iran’s enemies. He also criticized the heated rhetoric in the election debates, deeming it “unworthy of the Iranian nation.” Although he didn’t call anyone out by name, some observers thought he was especially unhappy with Rouhani for accusing Raisi of “bussing people to your campaign rallies” to inflate attendance.

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