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Russia, Syria, Turkey and Hamas congratulate Iran’s Raisi on election win

Gaza-ruling terror group hopes the Iranian president-elect will continue Tehran’s ‘honorable stances in solidarity with Palestine’; Islamic Jihad also sends well-wishes

Ebrahim Raisi casts his vote at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, June 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)
Ebrahim Raisi casts his vote at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, June 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

The leaders of Russia, Turkey, Syria and the Hamas terror group on Saturday congratulated Iran’s hardline president-elect, after he was declared to have won a landslide victory in an election in which all serious competitors were disqualified from running.

Congratulating judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi on his victory, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed hope for “further development of a constructive bilateral cooperation,” Russian news agency RIA quoted a spokesperson at the Russian embassy in Tehran as saying, according to Reuters.

The embassy also said: “We respect the choice of the Iranian people. We are ready to consistently strengthen cooperation with the Islamic Republic in all directions, as we did under previous Iranian presidents.”

Syria’s official SANA news agency said President Bashar Assad, who is backed by both Iran and Russia, sent Raisi a congratulatory cable saying he hoped the two would work together to further bilateral ties.

“Assad expressed, on behalf of the Syrian people and on his own behalf, heartfelt congratulations to the Iranian president on winning the presidential election,” the news agency said.

The Syrian leader, who was overwhelmingly re-elected last month in a vote widely seen as a sham, also wished Raisi success in continuing “the approach of the Islamic Revolution in leading his country’s march towards further prosperity and progress in all fields for the good and interest of the steadfast Iranian people in the face of all schemes and pressures that aim to break their will and undermine their independent decision.”

In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syrian President Bashar Assad, left, speaks with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, before their meeting in Tehran, Syria, February 25, 2019. (SANA via AP)

The Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers released a statement congratulating Raisi.

“We ask God to grant him success in leading the country, serving the Islamic Republic of Iran… and to continue and strengthen Iran’s honorable stances in solidarity with Palestine and its just cause, and support the steadfastness of the Palestinian people,” the Iran-backed terror organization said.

An official in Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another Iranian-supported terror group in Gaza, also congratulated Raisi.

“Once again the people of Iran have reiterated their commitment to the path of revolution and its regime. We congratulate the Islamic Republic and the people of Iran on this great achievement,” Youssef al-Hassayna was reported as saying by Reuters.

Among the other world leaders who congratulated Raisi were Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, whose official news agency said the Turkish leader looked forward to soon visiting Tehran.

Separate congratulations came from Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who also serves as the vice president and prime minister of the hereditarily ruled United Arab Emirates. The UAE, which last year normalized ties with Tehran’s regional enemy Israel, has been trying to de-escalate tensions with Iran since a series of attacks on shipping off its coast in 2019 that the US Navy blamed on Iran.

According to figures released Saturday by Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, Raisi was elected president with just under 62 percent of the vote, which saw 48.8% of the more than 59 million eligible voters cast a ballot — a record low for a presidential election in the Islamic republic.

In second place by a wide margin was the ultraconservative Mohsen Rezai, a former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who won 11.8%.

He was followed in third place by the only reformist left in the race, former central bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati, who scored 8.4%.

Last placed out of the four candidates was another ultraconservative, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi, who won 3.5%.

Over 3.7 million ballots were declared void — more votes than were won by second-placed Rezai.

Three of the original seven candidates had dropped out two days before the election — reformist Mohsen Mehralizadeh and ultraconservatives Saeed Jalili and Alireza Zakani.

The election of Raisi — a protege of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who is sanctioned by the US in part over his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 — became more of a coronation after his strongest competition found themselves disqualified from running.

That sparked calls for a boycott and many apparently did stay home, as turnout figures suggested.

Ebrahim Raisi, head of Iran’s judiciary, waves to journalists while registering his candidacy for the presidential elections, in Tehran, Iran, on May 15, 2021. Behind him is a poster of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File)

Iranian state television immediately blamed difficulties resulting from the coronavirus pandemic and continued US sanctions for the low participation. But the low turnout and voided ballots suggested a wider unhappiness with the tightly controlled election, as activists criticized Raisi’s ascension.

“That Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran,” Amnesty International’s Secretary-General Agnes Callamard said.

Exiled opposition groups hailed the “boycott” of the election, claiming even the historically low official turnout numbers had been exaggerated by authorities.

Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), said the “unprecedented nationwide boycott” had signaled that Iranians had “voted for overthrow of the ruling theocracy.”

The NCRI, in accusations backed by leading human rights groups, says that Raisi was part of a commission that sent thousands of jailed opponents to their deaths within a few months in the summer of 1988.

Most were supporters of the People’s Mujahedin Organization of Iran (MEK/PMOI) whose political wing is the NCRI. It backed Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1980-1988 war with Iran.

“There is no longer any justification for the international community to deal with, engage, or appease a regime whose president is a notorious criminal against humanity,” said Rajavi.

The MEK believes the actual turnout was 10% and the authorities inflated it by a factor of five in an “astronomical fabrication,” the NCRI said, based on reports from 1,200 witnesses in 400 Iranian cities and more than 3,500 video clips from polling stations. However, it did not say how the figure had been calculated.

Reza Pahlavi, son of deposed shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and heir to the throne before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, wrote on his official Twitter channel that Iranians had shown “unity and solidarity” by “boycotting and saying no to the authoritarian regime in Iran.”

“You have shown the will and power of the nation. Your freedom is near,” he added.

Reza Pahlavi, the exiled son of Iran’s last shah before the 1979 Islamic Revolution and a critic of the country’s clerical leaders, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Washington, January 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Figures inside Iran had also called for a boycott after the disqualification of prominent candidates in pre-vote vetting by the Guardians Council oversight body.

Khamenei, however, hailed the election as a victory “in the face of the propaganda of the enemy’s mercenary media.”

Since the Islamic Revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum asking simply whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic, which won 98.2% support.

Populist former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, one of those barred from running, said he would not vote, declaring in a video message: “I do not want to have a part in this sin.” Ahmadinejad was among those calling for a boycott, and the semi-official media included his photo in a graphic alongside Iran’s enemies.

A constitutional panel under Khamenei disqualified reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-president Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of the United States from the accord.

Raisi’s election puts hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program, at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though still short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the US and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Raisi also has become the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the US government even before entering office over his involvement in the 1988 mass executions, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners. The US State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

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