Reformist, hardliner to contest run-off Iran election

Iran will hold a run-off presidential election to replace the late hardline President Ebrahim Raisi after the top candidates failed to secure an outright win in the lowest turnout poll ever held in the Islamic Republic by percentage.

The run-off election, to be held on Friday, will pit reformist candidate Masoud Pezeshkian against the hardline former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

Mohsen Eslami, an election spokesman, announced the result on Saturday in a news conference carried by Iranian state television.

Iranian presidential election candidate Masoud Pezeshkian
Reformist Iranian presidential hopeful Masoud Pezeshkian (centre) has failed to secure a majority. (AP PHOTO)

He said of 24.5 million votes cast, Pezeshkian received 10.4 million and Jalili received 9.4 million.

Parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf received 3.3 million and Shiite cleric Mostafa Pourmohammadi had more than 206,000 votes.

Iranian law requires that a winner secures more than 50 per cent of all votes cast or the race's top two candidates advance to a run-off a week later.

There has been only one run-off presidential election in Iran's history - in 2005 when hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad bested former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Eslami acknowledged the country's Guardian Council would need to offer formal approval, but the result did not draw any immediate challenge from contenders in the race.

As has been the case since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, women and those calling for radical change have been barred from running, while the vote itself will have no oversight from internationally recognised monitors.

There had been calls for a boycott, including from imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Narges Mohammadi.

Mir Hossein Mousavi, one of the leaders of the 2009 Green Movement protests who remains under house arrest, has also refused to vote along with his wife, his daughter said.

There's also been criticism that Pezeshkian represents just another government-approved candidate.

Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf
Hardline presidential candidate Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf will contest a run-off election in Iran. (AP PHOTO)

In a documentary on the reformist candidate aired by state TV, one woman said her generation was "moving toward the same level" of animosity with the government that Pezeshkian's generation had in the 1979 revolution.

Raisi, 63, died in the May 19 helicopter crash that also killed the country's foreign minister and others.

He was seen as a protege of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and a potential successor.

Still, many knew him for his involvement in the mass executions that Iran conducted in 1988, and for his role in the bloody crackdowns on dissent that followed protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, a young woman detained by police over allegedly improperly wearing the mandatory headscarf, or hijab.

The voting came as wider tensions have gripped the Middle East over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.

In April, Iran launched its first-ever direct attack on Israel over the war in Gaza, while militia groups that Tehran arms in the region - such as the Lebanese Hezbollah and Yemen's Houthi rebels - are engaged in the fighting and have escalated their attacks.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Republic continues to enrich uranium at near weapons-grade levels and maintains a stockpile large enough to build - should it choose to do so - several nuclear weapons.

Despite the recent unrest, there was only one reported attack linked to the election.

Gunmen opened fire on a van transporting ballot boxes in the restive southeast province of Sistan and Baluchestan, killing two police officers and wounding others, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.

There is regular violence between security forces and the militant group Jaish al-Adl, as well as drug traffickers, in the province.