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Iran’s supreme leader calls for ‘maximum’ turnout for presidential election as voter apathy high

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DUBAI, June 25: Iran’s supreme leader called Tuesday for “maximum” voter turnout in this week’s presidential election to “overcome the enemy,” denouncing politicians who he described as believing that everything good comes from the United States.

While not naming any particular candidates, the comments by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared to directly undercut the candidacy of the race’s sole reformist candidate, 69-year-old heart surgeon Masoud Pezeshkian. In recent speeches, Pezeshkian has urged Iran to return to the 2015 nuclear deal and increase its outreach to the West.

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“The one who has the slightest opposition to the revolution … or the Islamic system, is not useful to you,” Khamenei said. “The person who is attached to the U.S., and imagines that without the U.S. favor it is not possible to move a step in the country, he will not be a good colleague for you.”

Khamenei’s comments in his hourlong speech drew repeated cries of “Death to America, death to Israel” from a raucous crowd gathered to mark the Shiite holiday of Eid al-Ghadir. The 85-year-old Khamenei to urge the crowd to quiet themselves several times during his remarks.

Friday’s election comes after a May helicopter crash that killed Iran’s hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi, a protégé of Khamenei.

Khamenei’s call comes after a parliamentary election that saw a record low turnout earlier this year. Voters across the capital, Tehran, who have spoken with The Associated Press have expressed widespread apathy over the election as Iran faces an economy crushed by Western sanctions and after widespread anti-government protests in recent years, particularly after the 2022 death of Mahsa Amini and women refusing to wear the country’s mandatory headscarf, or hijab.

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Pezeshkian, little known to the general public before registering for the campaign, has drawn large crowds to his speeches in Tehran and other major cities.

Pezeshkian also has been trying to adopt symbols of previous campaigns by popular reformists, who seek to change Iran’s theocracy from inside. His campaign slogan “For Iran,” a call to nationalism rather than religion, mirrors an earlier campaign slogan used by former reformist President Mohammad Khatami.

Pezeshkian also has been photographed wearing green scarves — apparently trying to associate himself with the 2009 Green Movement protests that swept Iran after the disputed vote and bloody crackdown that saw hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad re-elected as president.

There was no immediate comment from Pezeshkian on Khamenei’s remarks. However, they appeared timed to give his opponents ammunition for the last televised debate before the election, due to be held shortly after Khamenei spoke. (AP)

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