Iranians vote to replace late president

Iranians vote to replace late president
Iranians queue as they wait to vote at a polling station in a snap presidential election. / AP

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iranians were voting Friday in a snap election to replace the late President Ebrahim Raisi, killed in a helicopter crash last month, as public apathy has become pervasive in the Islamic Republic after years of economic woes, mass protests and tensions in the Middle East.

Voters face a choice between hard-line candidates and a little-known politician who belongs to Iran’s reformist movement that seeks to change its Shiite theocracy from within.

As has been the case since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, women and those calling for radical change have been barred from the ballot while the vote itself will have no oversight from internationally recognized monitors.

The voting comes as wider tensions have gripped the Middle East over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

In April, Iran launched its first-ever direct attack on Israel over the war in Gaza, while militia groups that Tehran arms in the region — such as the Lebanese Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi rebels — are engaged in the fighting. Meanwhile, Iran continues to enrich uranium at near weapons-grade levels and maintains a stockpile large enough to build — should it choose to do so — several nuclear weapons.

While Iran’s 85-year-old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on all matters of state, presidents can bend the country’s policies toward confrontation or negotiation with the West.

However, given the record-low turnout in recent elections, it remains unclear just how many Iranians will take part in Friday’s poll. / AP

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