Iranian voters went to the polls Friday in a presidential election in which ultraconservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi is seen as all but certain to coast to victory over his vetted rivals.
After a lacklustre campaign, turnout is expected to plummet to a new low in a country exhausted by a punishing regime of US economic sanctions and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Election placards are relatively sparse in the capital Tehran, dominated by those showing the austere face of frontrunner Raisi, 60, in his trademark black turban and flowing religious robe.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cast the first vote just after 7:00 am (0230 GMT) at a specially installed ballot box at a mosque adjoining his offices in the capital.
He then urged Iranian’s nearly 60 million eligible voters to follow suit, saying: “The sooner you perform this task and duty, the better. Everything that the Iranian people do today until tonight, by going to the polls and voting, serves to build their future.”
Polls close at midnight (1930 GMT), and possibly two hours later, with results expected around noon Saturday.
The winner will take over in August as Iran’s eighth president from incumbent Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who has served the maximum of two consecutive four-year-terms allowed under the constitution.