Iran Presidential candidates Masoud Pezeshkian (L) and Saeed Jalili


The Supreme Leader has acknowledged the historic low turnout in the first round of Iran’s managed Presidential election last Friday.

Ayatollah Khamenei said participation was “lower than expected”, without referring to the figure of 40% — down on the then-historic low of 48.8% in the 2021 Presidential election.

“We hope that people’s turnout for the second round [this Friday] will be important and a source of pride for the Islamic Republic,” Khamenei appealed to Iranians.


Reformist Masoud Pezeshkian and hardliner Saeed Jalili will contest the runoff to become Iran’s President.

Official results give Pezeshkian 10,415,991 votes (42.5%). Jalili has 9,473,298 (38.6%).

Conservative Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Baqer Ghalibaf was a distant third with 3,383,340 votes. Former Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi was awarded only 206,397.

The total of 24,535,185 valid votes points to a turnout of 40.2%, breaking the historic low of 48.8% in the 2021 Presidential contest.


In the latest vote count, reformist Masoud Pezeshkian maintains a lead over hardliner Saeed Jalili, with the two men comfortably heading to a run-off.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: In a surprise development, reformist Masoud Pezeshkian and hardliner Saeed Jalili are leading in the first round of Iran’s President election.

Pezeshkian, an MP and former Health Minister has 5,955,781 votes. Jalili, best known as Iran’s lead nuclear negotiator and Secretary of the National Security Council, has 5,560,321.

Conservative Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf is a distant third with 1,891,385 votes. Conservative former Interior Minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi has 111,967.

The top two candidates proceed to a run-off, unless one has a majority of all valid votes.

See also A Beginner’s Guide to Iran’s “Managed” Presidential Election

Pezeshkian initially appeared to be a token reformist candidate — all others were blocked by the Guardian Council, which carries out vetting on behalf of Iran’s leadership — in the hope of boosting voter turnout past the historic lows in recent elections.

The leadership appeared to judge that Pezeshkian would not have the charisma and policies to mobilize mass support. However, the Council may have miscalculated, with centrists and reformists able to rally around a single figure.

Other analysts believe that a strong first-round performance by Pezeshkian is acceptable to the regime, since he would lose to its preferred candidate in the run-off. And there are some who argue that Pezeshkian has curbed his views — for example, silence on the strict house arrests of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Zahra Rahnavard since February 2011 — so he has a chance of victory.

The other surprise so far is the poor performance of Ghalibaf, a high-profile candidate — this is his fourth run for the Presidency — who was close with Pezeshkian and Jalili in polling.

Earlier this week, some regime figures called for hardliners and conservatives to rally around a single candidate, apparently from concern about Pezeshkian’s unexpected strength in polling.

One hardline and one conservative dropped out. However, both Ghalibaf and Jalili refused to step aside.

Almost 15 million ballots have been counted so far — about 25% of the 61 million Iranians eligible to vote.

In 2021, official turnout of 48.8%, an all-time low since the Islamic Republic was established in 1979. Earlier this year, Parliamentary elections officially recorded 42% participation.

The election was called after the death last month of hardline President Ebrahim Raisi, whom the Supreme Leader hailed as his “servant”, in a helicopter crash as he was returning from Azerbaijan.

A Return to the Past?

In 2009, Green Movement leader Mousavi, promising reform, appeared to lead the first round amid a surge of enthusiasm across Iran. However, the regime proclaimed that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had “won” with 63% of the vote.

More than a million Iranians took to the streets, calling for a fair election, rights, and reforms. The protests were eventually repressed by regime forces, with widespread detentions, scores of demonstrators slain, and the house arrests of Mousavi, fellow candidate Karroubi, and Mousavi’s wife, academic, and activist Rahnavard.

Four years later, the Council disqualified former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, in an attempt to stem centrists and reformists. However, it allowed a consolation candidate, Rafsanjani’s protégé Hassan Rouhani.

The tactic backfired when Rouhani won a first-round victory, and the Supreme Leader — probably mindful of 2009 — decided not to intervene. Rouhani served two terms, and was succeeded by Raisi in 2021.