Moderate Pezeshkian wins presidential run-off in Iran

Iranian voters were choosing between a hard-line candidate and his more moderate rival in the run-off election.

Published : Jul 06, 2024 17:40 IST - 3 MINS READ

Reformist candidate Pezeshkian won the run-off round.

Reformist candidate Pezeshkian won the run-off round. | Photo Credit:  ATTA KENARE / AFP

Masoud Pezeshkian, a moderate who has promised to open Iran to the world, won the run-off presidential election, officials said early on Saturday. Pezeshkian, 69, was up against Saeed Jalili, 58, a hard-liner who is a former negotiator with the West over Iran’s contentious nuclear program.

The run-off election in Iran was held to choose a successor to late President Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a helicopter crash in May along with the Foreign Minister and other officials. Pezeshkian, a heart surgeon and reformist politician, was the Health Minister from 2001 to 2005.

Turnout higher than first round

According to authorities, Pezeshkian won Friday’s election with 16.3 million votes, while Jalili got 13.5 million votes. Initial reports from authorities indicated a turnout of around 50 per cent, higher than in the first round. There are some 60,000 polling stations and more than 61 million eligible voters in Iran amid a population of 85 million.

Low-stakes election

While neither man was expected to bring big changes to Iran’s domestic or foreign policies if he won, with the main power resting in the hands of the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian president will play a role in selecting the latter’s successor. Analysts say, however, that a win by Jalili, who has often voiced his hostility toward the West, would have brought an even more antagonistic domestic and foreign policy on the part of Tehran.

Also Read | Ebrahim Raisi (1960-2024): Iranian President who confronted the West

They say that Pezeshkian, who won some 10 per cent more votes than Jalili in the first round, might advocate a milder foreign policy, be more open to reviving negotiations with major powers to restore the nuclear pact and be more liberal in his approach to social issues such as the mandatory wearing of headscarfs by women.

Pezeshkian maintained that he has always regarded Khamenei as the ultimate authority on all state matters in the country. During his campaign, Pezeshkian promised not to implement any radical changes to Iran’s Shiite theocracy.

Likely voter apathy

The run-off vote, called after neither man won more 50 per cent of all votes cast a June 28 ballot that saw a record low turnout of just 40 per cent, comes amid heightened regional tensions over the war between Israel and Iranian allies Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. The country is also under continued pressure from the West over its nuclear program, which many countries fear might be a pretext for the production of nuclear weapons.

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On the domestic front, Iran is contending with an ailing economy amid long mismanagement and state corruption and sanctions reimposed since 2018 after the US withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear treaty with six world powers.

Turnout at the Iranian election has plunged in the past four years, with critics saying this reflects falling support for the country’s theocratic rule as economic hardships increase and political and social freedoms are tightly curbed. The 2021 election that brought Raisi to power saw a turnout of just 48 per cent and a parliamentary election in March saw a mere 41 per cent.

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