Mainly conservative men, “as much space as possible.”

Mainly conservative men, “as much space as possible.”

Noos News

  • Leonard Solves

    Foreign editor

  • Leonard Solves

    Foreign editor

After the sudden death of Iranian President Raisi, Iranians will elect a new president within two weeks. So far, six candidates have been announced: five conservative men and moderate reformist Masoud Pezeshkian. Whatever the outcome of the June 28 elections, Iran’s course will not change radically. But with Pezeshkian, it is possible to create a little more space, says Iran expert Peyman Jafari.

“Pezeshkian wants change, but he realizes that the regime does not allow major changes. He can strengthen relations with the West, sign international treaties and ensure less repression in Iran itself when it comes, for example, to wearing the mandatory hijab.”

The big question is whether Pezeshkian will succeed in attracting enough Iranians to the polls. According to Jafari, this will become clear in the coming weeks, when election campaigns and television debates begin in Iran. The first debate on television will be on Monday.

The Ayatollah is in control

Iranians were actually supposed to go to the polls in 2025, but because of the fatal helicopter crash of ultra-conservative President Raisi last month, the election date was moved forward.

Eighty Iranians tried to run in the elections, including four women. The so-called Guardian Council ultimately determines who can participate. Behind the scenes, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is in charge. It determines the composition of that council, directly and indirectly.

See how the Guardian Council is formed here:

Six candidates passed the balloting process and are therefore eligible on June 28. It is not entirely unexpected that it is conservative men who support Khamenei to varying degrees.

A brief introduction to who might soon lead Iran:

Therefore, the only moderate reformist candidate is former Health Minister Masoud Pezeshkian. It is unlikely that the reason for his inclusion on the list was the Guardian Council. According to Jafari, the matter may have to do with the participation rate and Iran’s legitimacy.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran has always said that elections are important to them, unlike, say, Saudi Arabia, where no democratic influences are allowed. So they fear low turnout. They may have thought that Pezeshkian could raise more concerns among voters. But not “What is known is enough to actually win, and this of course represents a danger to the Guardian Council.”

Young people in particular do not have much confidence in the Iranian regime. This was accelerated by the wave of protests that broke out in 2022 after the death of Mahsa Amini. For months, Iranians have taken to the streets to fight for greater freedoms.

Those protests failed due to harsh repression by the regime, but according to Al-Jaafari, there was not enough critical mass to truly bring about change. This group could cause an upset in this election.

“In Iran, you have a large gray bloc that supported the protests morally, but did not participate. They are disillusioned with the regime, but they do not immediately see revolution as a realistic option. The question is whether this group will be able to muster enthusiasm in Iran over the coming weeks.” ” To vote for Pezeshkian.”

Jafari confirms that there are divisions among reform-oriented Iranians. Many residents will not find Pezishkian extreme enough, and will therefore question whether they should support him.

Battle between conservatives

There is also a division in the conservative camp. The battle there will be between Saeed Jalili and Muhammad Baqir Qalibaf. Jalili is an ultra-conservative hardliner who is Khamenei’s favorite candidate. “Under his leadership, the conservative line will continue today,” says Al-Jaafari. He added: “He is known for his confrontational policies towards the West. Iran will become more isolated internationally under him.”

Ghalibaf is conservative but moderate. “With him we will have the status quo. He will adopt a pragmatic stance in domestic and foreign policy. For example, he is willing to negotiate a nuclear agreement with Europe and perhaps act less repressively in Iran itself.”

It remains interesting to see what path Iran will take and whether and how big there is room for small changes. Moreover, Supreme Leader Khamenei, in cooperation with his army, the Revolutionary Guard, determines the main lines, especially when it comes to foreign policy. The president certainly has room to maneuver within those frameworks, but his powers remain limited.

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