Iranians vote in 13th presidential election
Results to be announced today
Iranians voted on Friday in the country’s 13th presidential election to choose a successor to President Hassan Rouhani.
More than 72,000 booths opened at 7:00 a.m. local time across the nation to let in over 59 million eligible voters to cast their ballots to pick their favorite out of four candidates that include former governor of the Central Bank of Iran Abdolnaser Hemmati, lawmaker Amirhossein Qazizadeh Hashemi, Judiciary chief Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi, and Secretary of the Expediency Council Mohsen Rezaei.
Election officials said around 3.5 million Iranian expatriates were also eligible to vote in 234 polling stations set up by the country’s diplomatic missions overseas.
City council, midterm parliamentary, and Assembly of Experts elections were held simultaneously with the presidential vote, Press TV wrote.
Officials stressed that health protocols would be strictly observed in all polling stations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
National television showed long queues outside polling stations in several cities.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei cast his ballot just after polls opened at a ballot box in a mosque adjoining his office in the capital Tehran.
“Election Day is the day of the Iranian nation. Today, people are in charge,” Ayatollah Khamenei said after voting. “Even one single vote counts. No one should say ‘What will my one vote do?’ These one votes become millions when combined.”
“Everything that the Iranian people do today until tonight, by going to the polls and voting, serves to build their future.”
Two days before the election, the Leader urged voters to come out in droves to elect “a powerful president” – warning that “the satanic power centers of the world” are trying to undermine the ballot.
Senior Iranian officials, including the heads of the three branches of power, also cast their votes in the capital.
Addressing the nation after casting his vote, President Rouhani said Iran was among a few countries in the world whose elections attract international attention.
“People should be mindful that the whole world is today focused on the ballot boxes and the people’s queues to cast their votes. God willing, we will act in a way that will make our friends across the world happy and frustrate our enemies,” he said.
“Elections are important despite the problems and issues,” he added.
Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who voted in downtown Tehran, called ballot boxes Iran’s “biggest political and social capital” that need to be protected.
The results are expected to be out on Saturday. If no clear winner emerges, a runoff will be held next Friday.
The winner of the election will take over in August, as Iran’s eighth president, from Rouhani who has served the maximum of two consecutive four-year-terms allowed under the Constitution.
Rouhani’s key achievement was the landmark 2015 deal with world powers under which Iran limited its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief. But former US president Donald Trump withdrew from the accord in 2018 and launched a “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, AFP wrote.
Iranian women claim historic Asian taekwondo runner-up spot
A total of six medals, including a gold, saw Iran finish runner-up at the women’s competitions of the 2021 Asian Taekwondo Championships in Beirut, Lebanon – a first-ever feat achieved for the country.
Iran’s Negar Esmaeili beat her South Korean opponent Kang Mi-reu for the -46kg gold, while Melika Mirhosseini had to settle for a silver after coming short against Julyana al-Sadeq of Jordan in the -67kg final.
Ghazal Soltani (-53kg), Nahid Kiani (-57kg), Parisa Javadi (-62kg), and Zahra Pour-Esmaeil (+73kg) added four bronzes to the country’s medal count as Iran collected 265 points to finish behind South Korea, who dominated the women’s contests with 502 points, courtesy of three golds, two silvers, and a single bronze.
Vietnam stood third with 178 points after clinching a gold and silver apiece.
Iran’s head coach Mahroo Komrani was named Best Women’s Coach.
In the men’s competitions, Iran stood third with 207 points, following South Korea (381 points) and Uzbekistan (239 points) in the standings.
Sajjad Mardani beat Bae Yoon-min of South Korea 7-5 in the golden point round to grab the +87kg gold, while in the other Iranian-South Korean final, Amir-Mohammad Bakhshi was defeated by Kim Seok-bae and took the -74kg silver.
Armin Hadipour, who will represent Iran at the Tokyo Olympics, won the -58kg bronze.
Biden, Putin agree to disagree in Geneva
U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin ended their bilateral summit early on Wednesday with nothing left to say and not much to show for it. Although the post-summit press conference saw Biden deliver a Trump-style rebuke of a CNN reporter, the meeting largely avoided the mixed messages sent during the 2018 Helsinki summit.
Speaking separately to the press after the meeting, both leaders struck a tone of mutual respect. “If you ask me what sort of a partner . . . Biden is, I’d say he is very constructive,” Putin said. “He’s very balanced — just the way that I expected,” he added. Biden, meanwhile, spoke of two “powerful and proud countries” coming together, American magazine Foreign Policy wrote on Thursday.
Although there were few concrete outcomes, the two sides have agreed to begin a dialogue on “strategic stability” or, as Biden put it, to “get our military experts and our diplomats together to work in a mechanism that can lead to control of new and dangerous and sophisticated weapons that are coming on the scene now that reduce the times of response that raised the prospects of accidental war.”
Biden also presented Putin with a 16-point list of areas considered off limits for cyberattacks. The list (likely the 16 critical infrastructure sectors noted by the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) includes energy, food, and water systems — and also the U.S. defense industry. If such targets were subject to a Russian hack, Biden warned of retaliation. “I pointed out to him we have significant cyber capability, and he knows it,” Biden said.
Iran nuclear deal not renegotiable; sanctions must be lifted: FM Zarif
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif once again reiterated that the 2015 nuclear deal with major world powers would not be renegotiated at all, saying all the sanctions imposed and reimposed by the United States against Tehran should be lifted.
In a Friday meeting between Zarif and High Representative of the European Union Josep Borrell on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Turkey, the two sides discussed the latest developments pertaining to the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as negotiations are underway in the Austrian capital of Vienna between Iran and the remaining parties to the agreement on its revival. The United States unilaterally abandoned the deal in 2018, Press TV reported.
Zarif said the Iranian nation has a “bitter experience” of the US violation of its commitments under former president Donald Trump and expressed hope that the current Vienna talks would yield results.
Representatives of Iran and the other five signatories to the nuclear agreement, namely Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China, have been engaged in the Vienna process since early April with the purpose of finding ways to bring the United States back to the deal and prepare the ground for its full implementation.
A US delegation is also in the Austrian capital, but it is not attending the discussions because the United States is not a party to the nuclear accord.
Trump abandoned the deal and reimposed the anti-Iran sanctions that the JCPOA had lifted. He also placed additional sanctions on Iran under other pretexts not related to the nuclear case as part of the “maximum pressure” campaign.
Following a year of strategic patience, Iran resorted to its legal rights stipulated in Article 26 of the JCPOA, which grants a party the right to suspend its contractual commitments in case of non-compliance by other signatories, and suspend some of the restrictions imposed on its nuclear energy program.
Now, the new US administration says it wants to compensate for Trump’s mistake and rejoin the deal, but it is showing an overriding propensity for maintaining some of the sanctions as a tool of pressure.
Tehran insists that all sanctions should first be removed in a verifiable manner before the Islamic Republic reverses its remedial measures.
Speaking to Press TV in an exclusive interview after Iran and the P4+1 group of countries ended the first day of the sixth round of their talks on Saturday, Iran’s top negotiator in the Vienna talks, Abbas Araghchi, said the Iranian delegation seeks a good deal that would address the Islamic Republic’s key concerns and would continue negotiations until such a deal is reached.
Elsewhere in his talks, the Iranian foreign minister pointed to the current situation in Afghanistan, saying differences between the Afghan government and other political groups have created major obstacles in the way of efforts to tackle insecurity in the war-ravaged country.
For his part, Borrell expressed hope that the Vienna negotiations would be constructive.
‘US breach unlawful’
In a meeting with Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, the top Iranian diplomat outlined the latest situation in bilateral relations and issues of common interest in regional and international fields.
He highlighted the unlawful acts of obstruction by the United States in the way of the implementation of the JCPOA and informed his Venezuelan counterpart on the latest outcomes of the Vienna talks.
The Venezuelan foreign minister, for his turn, said the US sanctions against his country have caused many problems for the supplement of coronavirus vaccine.
He hailed Iran’s assistance and support for the Venezuelan people in difficult days.
The Iranian and Venezuelan foreign ministers also discussed the latest situation in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as the Latin American countries.
Croatia economic ties
Zarif also held a separate meeting with Croatia’s Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman and expressed Tehran’s keenness to improve economic ties with Zagreb.
He added that Washington’s sanctions have caused problems for many Iranian companies which have economic cooperation with Croatia and expressed hope that they would be able to resume their interaction with Zagreb.
Radman, for his part, said Iran enjoys a rich history and culture and Croatia is interested in the expansion of mutual relations.
‘More time required’
In a tweet on Friday, the Russian ambassador to international organizations in Vienna, Mikhail Ulyanov, said senior diplomats from Iran and the P4+1 group of countries are not exhausted but a little bit tired, stressing that the Vienna talks would need “additional time to complete successfully”.
“I believe that the negotiators are not exhausted but they are a little bit tired. It is obvious that the #ViennaTalks will require additional time to complete successfully this lengthy and rather complicated process,” Ulyanov, who is the head of the Russian delegation to the Vienna talks, tweeted.
Overhaul of power plants to add over 990MW to electricity production
Thermal Power Plants Holding Company (TPPH) announced that overhaul operations will add 992 megawatts (MW) to Iran’s electricity capacity, as the plants will go on stream for the peak consumption period in the summer.
The company announced that the overhauled power plants will be put into operation gradually and before the peak consumption period in the summer (to start on June 22), IRNA reported.
Hot weather, reduced production of hydropower plants due to water shortage, increased activities of illegal cryptocurrency miners, as well as the coronavirus pandemic have caused the Energy Ministry to face some challenges in meeting the electricity demands in the peak of summer.
In this regard, the ministry has been implementing several programs for preventing electricity shortages and blackouts in the hot season.
Accelerating the completion of annual overhaul operations of power plants has been one of the mentioned programs that have been considered for boosting the power supply.
Signing agreements with industrial and agricultural sectors for reducing the electricity consumption by these sectors is also another program that the ministry is implementing.
Also, the reduction of electricity exports is considered another solution to meet the domestic electricity demand during the summer.
“In some cases, and based on existing contracts, the electricity exports came close to zero,” said Iranian Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian.
According to the official, the government is also negotiating with some neighboring countries including Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, and Armenia for increasing electricity imports in the summer.