As the first results of Iran’s presidential election were announced late on Friday night, the campaign headquarters of Ebrahim Raeesi echoed with one phrase: “Election violations.”
Hassan Rouhani has so far secured 50 percent of the vote, gaining half of the 40 million votes cast. Iranian state television has announced that he he has won a second term.
Results from urban areas — where it was expected Rouhani would win the majority of votes — have yet to be announced.
Ali Nikzad, Raeesi’s campaign manager, claimed reformists and moderates had deliberately violated election rules with the intention of skewing the overall results. Conservative media have reported widely on the accusation, gathering information that could serve as evidence of widespread violations. The spokesman for the Guardian Council and some judiciary officials reiterated the claim.
Election violations are not unprecedented or new in Iran, but the conservatives have insisted on drawing attention to it and publicly dismissing the results announced by the Interior Ministry. If they succeed in having some ballot boxes invalidated, the margin between votes for Rouhani and votes for Raeesi might be reduced, and Raeesi’s defeat would be less dramatic.
Over the last four years, principlist conservatives have repeatedly claimed that Rouhani was teetering on the edge as far as voters were concerned, so his win by a large majority will be a huge blow. So if election officials are persuaded that some ballots are invalid, it will be a relative victory for Iran's hardliners, ensuring they will continue to have political influence throughout Rouhani's second term. Maintaining this powerful minority means they can effectively challenge Rouhani, recalibrating their power to apply political pressure and renewing efforts to prevent some of his more progressive policies from being implemented.
As further details of election results are announced, the hardliners’ protests and accusations are likely to get louder and be more widely disseminated. They do not expect to be able to invalidate the overall results, but they are hoping to salvage some credibility and prestige for themselves.