Iran will hold a runoff presidential election to replace the late hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi with reformist candidate Masoud Pezeshkian,  an official said on Saturday after an initial vote showed the lowest-ever poll turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history.

As per the election spokesman, Mohsen Eslami’s announcement in the Iranian state’s television conference, more than 60 per cent  of voters cast no ballot in the race that saw reformist Masoud Pezeshkian (secured 10.4 million votes) perform better than Saeed Jalili (9.4 million), who competed alongside two other hard-liners. 

According to Iranian law, a winner must get more than 50 per cent of all votes cast. If not, the race’s top two candidates will advance to a runoff a week later. There’s been only one runoff presidential election in Iran’s history: in 2005, when hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad bested former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. 

“Let’s look at it as a protest in its own right: A very widespread choice to reject what’s on offer, i.e. both the candidates and the system,” said Sanam Vakil, the director of Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa program. “That tells us much about public opinion, apathy, and frustration. It sort of brings it all together.”

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