Iran’s supreme leader declared a “victory” for Iran after the election of an ultra-hard line cleric as president saw anti-Western conservatives cement control of all branches of power for the first time in a decade.

Ebrahim Raisi, 60, was declared president elect on Saturday afternoon after taking more than 62 percent of votes.

But his landslide was marred by historically low turnout amid widespread voter apathy and anger at what many saw as transparent rigging to ensure his victory. Turnout was just 48.8 per cent, and the number of spoiled votes outweighed those won by either of Raisi’s closest rivals.

The result was a rout for the reformist camp represented by outgoing president Hassan Rouhani, who had advocated re-engagement with the West but failed to deliver on promises of economic renewal after Donald Trump pulled out of a key nuclear deal in 2018.

Supporter at a rally for their new president

Credit:  Sam Tarling

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, thanked the public for standing up to what he described as foreign powers trying to stop people voting.

"The great winner of yesterday’s elections is the Iranian nation because it has risen up once again in the face of the propaganda of the enemy’s mercenary media," he Tweeted.

Preliminary results announced by the Iranian interior ministry on Saturday afternoon gave Mr Raisi 17.9 million of 28.9 million votes already counted.

His nearest rival was Mohsen Rezaei, a former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, who took 3.3 million – less than the 3.7 million ballots that were deemed spoiled.  

Abdolnaser Hemmati, who had hoped to channel moderate and reformist voters in big cities including Tehran, took just 2.4 million in a resounding rejection of the moderate establishment. Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, a conservative MP, took one million.

A man walks by a campaign office of Ebrahim Raisi who today was named as the winner of the Iranian Presidential Election, in Tehran

Credit: Sam Tarling/Sam Tarling for The Telegraph

The mood on the streets of Tehran was muted on Saturday morning, with many of those who voted for Mr Raisi hoping above all that he might be able to deliver the economic revival Mr Rouhani failed to.

“Its is not easy to make a choice between the bad and the worst – I just made a choice,” said Ramin, a man in his 30s who voted for Mr Raisi. “Whoever was elected, we would be hoping that things would somehow get better.”

Others declared indifference.

“I don’t have any particular feeling about the result because we had no candidate. The people on the ballot were chosen by a higher political power, and there was no difference between them,” said Nimon, a 33 year old marketing manager who boycotted the poll. “Democracy here is just words.”

Some fear that sentiment could undermine both Mr Raisi’s mandate to govern and the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic in general.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hardline former president, told the Telegraph the day before the election that he believed large numbers of voters had been disenfranchised by candidate vetting and that he would not vote.  

Iranian ultraconservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi

Credit: AFP

Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who preceded Mr Ahmadinejad as president, said ahead of the vote that the barring of other candidates was "not acceptable," and asked rhetorically how it could "conform to being a republic or Islamic?"

Mr Raisi, 60, is a judge and utra-conservative cleric widely seen as a protege of Mr Khamenei, who appointed him head of the judiciary two years ago.

His rise to prominence has prompted speculation that he may be being groomed to succeed the 82-year old Ayatollah as supreme leader.

Mr Raisi was placed under sanctions by Donald Trump’s administration in 2019, for a string of alleged human rights abuses including his purported involvement in the disappearance and execution of hundreds of regime critics in 1988.

Amnesty International called his election victory “a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran" and demanded he be investigated for crimes against humanity.

Posters of Ebrahim Raisi are reflected in a car window

Credit: Sam Tarling/Sam Tarling for The Telegraph

He has promised to concentrate on domestic affairs, including fixing the moribund economy beset by rampant inflation, stagnant wages and high unemployment.

To do so he has pledged to continue Mr Rouhani’s efforts to revive the JCPOA, a 2015 deal between Iran and six world powers that saw the Islamic Republic accept curbs to its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. There is widespread public support for returning to the deal.

The agreement was thrown into disarray in 2018 after Donald Trump pulled the United States out and imposed punishing sanctions in a bid to force Tehran to accept stricter nuclear curbs and rein in its missile program and the IRGC’s military entanglements in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.

Joe Biden’s administration began talks with Mr Rouhani’s government to revive the deal, but wants Iran to return to full compliance with its own commitments before lifting sanctions. He is also under pressure from US conservatives and allies including Israel and Saudi Arabia to maintain pressure on Tehran over its missile and military programs. 

A woman collects her ballot to vote in the presidential electin at a polling station set up in a mosque in Tehran.

Credit: Sam Tarling/Sam Tarling for The Telegraph

Supporters of Mr Raisi including dozens of women in black chadoors waving iranian flags began to gather for a victory rally on Imam Hossein square in east Tehran on Friday evening.

The crowd of three to four thousand chanted "President Raisi! Blindness in the eyes of the BBC!" and cheered promises that the new president would crack down on nepotism. Mr Raisi himself did not show up.

The BBC is a common target of anti-Western rhetoric in Iran. Hardline leaders including Mr Khamenei accused foreign media of trying to sabotage the election by discouraging people from voting.