Iran’s hard-line judiciary chief won a landslide victory Saturday in the nation’s presidential election, a vote which propelled the supreme leader’s protege to Tehran’s highest civilian position and saw the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history.

That ignited calls for a boycott and lots of reportedly failed to stay home — out of over 59 million eligible voters, only 28.9 million voted. Of those voting, some 3.7 million individuals either inadvertently or intentionally voided their ballots, far beyond the amount seen in previous elections and suggesting some wanted none of those four candidates.

Iranian state television instantly blamed challenges of this coronavirus pandemic and U.S. sanctions for its low participation. Nevertheless, the low turnout and voided ballots suggested a wider unhappiness with the tightly controlled election, as activists criticized Raisi’s ascension.

In official benefits, Raisi won 17.9 million votes total, almost 62% of their total 28.9 million throw. Had the voided ballots gone into a candidate, that individual would have come in 2nd place.

Former Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati, a moderate seen as a stand-in for incoming President Hassan Rouhani in the election, came in third with 2.4 million votes. Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi was past with just under 1 million.

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, that gave the outcomes, did not explain the large number of voided ballots. Elections in 2017 and 2012 watched some 1.2 million voided ballots apiece. Iran does not permit international election observers to monitor its own polls.

While Iran doesn’t have compulsory voting, those casting ballots do get stamps showing they voted on their birth certificates. Some stress that could affect their ability to apply for jobs and scholarships, or to hold onto their positions from the government or the security forces.

Hemmati, like the three other candidates, surrendered before the results were published.

“I hope your government provides causes of pride to the Islamic Republic of Iran, improves the life and economy with comfort and welfare for the great state of Iran,” he wrote on Instagram.

Abroad, Syrian President Bashar Assad immediately congratulated Raisi’s triumph. Iran was instrumental in watching Assad hold on the presidency amid his nation’s decade-long grinding warfare.

The UAE has been trying to de-escalate tensions with Iran since a set of attacks on shipping off its shore in 2019 which the U.S. Navy blamed on Iran.

Additionally congratulating Raisi has been Oman, which has functioned as an interlocutor between Tehran and the West.

Rouhani, who in 2017 dismissed Raisi as an opponent in his re-election as someone only knowing about”executions and imprisoning” individuals, met the cleric Saturday and congratulated him.

“I expect I will respond well to the people’s confidence, kindness and vote during my word,” Raisi explained.

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its validity, starting with its original referendum that won 98.2% service that simply asked whether or not people needed an Islamic Republic. Some, such as former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, called for a boycott in this election, something anathema in the country. Semiofficial media put Ahmadinejad in a graphic alongside Iran’s enemies.

A constitutional panel under Khamenei disqualified reformists and those financing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear bargain with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years after with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America in the accord.

Raisi’s election puts hard-liners firmly in control across the authorities as discussions in Vienna continue to try and conserve a tattered deal meant to restrict Iran’s atomic program, at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its greatest levels ever, though still short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high together with the U.S. and Israel, which is thought to have completed a collection of strikes targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its army atomic plan decades before.

Raisi also is now the first serving Iranian president sanctioned from the U.S. government even before entering workplace over his involvement in the 1988 mass executions, in addition to his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners. The U.S. State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

“Raisi’s ambivalence about overseas interaction is only going to worsen the probabilities that Washington could convince Tehran to accept additional limitations on its atomic program, regional influence, or missile program, at least in Joe Biden’s first term in office,” wrote Henry Rome, an analyst at the Eurasia Group who studies Iran.

Iranian presidents have almost all served two four-year conditions. That means Raisi could be at the helm what could be among the most crucial moments for the nation in years — the passing of this 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has started that Raisi may be a contender for the position, together with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

Khamenei praised the voter turnout in a statement Saturday.

“Not complaints concerning the financial issues of poor people, not the frustrations about the danger of this pandemic and not opposition aimed at disappointing individuals could overcome the determination of the state of Iran,” he explained.