The ultra-conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, head of the judiciary, is the new president of Iran and a second round will not be necessary because he obtained 61.95% of the votes. The top of the regime did not want surprises and that is why it vetoed all the important candidates, especially reformists, and prepared the elections for this victory of Raisi that ends the two terms of the moderate cleric Hasan Rohaní. The ayatollahs win with their candidate, but lose to voters who showed their rejection of the elections with an unprecedented abstention.
The turnout was 48.8%, the lowest in the history of the Islamic republic and far removed from the 73% of the last presidential elections. In cities like Tehran barely 25% voted. These figures show the dissatisfaction of a part of the population with the Islamic system. Another revealing fact about the rejection of the way in which the system prepared this appointment with the polls were the 3.7 million voters who deposited invalid ballots.
Participation has been in the last four decades one of the main arguments of the regime to defend its legitimacy. The system always played with the ultra-conservative and reformist currents to maintain a certain emotion in the elections and an appearance of democratic balance, but this time it has preferred to bet on the safety of a candidate like Raisi, who for some analysts is called to be the successor of Ali Khamenei, who at 82 is beginning to think about his replacement.
“The paradigm has changed and participation was not the most important thing this time, but rather that the candidate of the traditional conservative elite won, since victory eluded them since 1997. Although this may affect legitimacy, the important thing is that the system remains functional, “says Luciano Zaccara, specialist in Iran and professor of Gulf Studies at the University of Qatar.
Despite the figures saying otherwise, the Supreme Leader described the participation as “epic” and assured that in these elections “the great winner is the Iranian nation because it has risen up again in the face of the propaganda of the enemy’s mercenary press.” . Always with the conspiracy theory as the cause of all the evils and without making internal criticism, Khamenei has turned Iran into a one-color regime in which the ultra-conservatives dominate all its key sectors.
The voting centers were open for nineteen hours, but it only took a few hours for Raisi’s victory to be clear. The second most voted was Mohsen Rezaei and the third Abdolhossein Hemmatti, the only moderate voice among those selected by the Council of Guardians. Without needing to know the final data, the candidates who aspired to the presidency congratulated him, as did Rohani and the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, the first world leader to send a message to Tehran. Following the official announcement of the victory came the congratulations of Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanese Hezbollah; the Syrian and Iraqi Presidents Bashar al-Assad and Barham Saleh; or the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas from Gaza.
Rohaní and Raisi held a joint press conference and set August 3 as the day for the formation of the new government. The winner reached out to Rohaní and assured that they will “take note of all their experience and cooperate closely with all the members of its Executive to know their opinions and points of view.” Iran is leaving behind eight years of a moderate presidency in which the outgoing president has been unable to deliver on his promises. The great asset of the support for Rohaní was his approach to the West and the signing of the nuclear agreement, the problem was that Donald Trump broke the pact and reimposed sanctions that asphyxiated the Iranians. The country needs to sell oil, its main source of income, but penalties, which Joe Biden seems willing to partially lift, prevent it.
Raisi’s team will pick up the baton in the negotiations to recover the nuclear deal. The campaign spokesman for the new president, Alireza Afshar, assured that they are in favor of continuing with these talks, although he understands them as “a marginal issue that should not be associated with the problems that the country is going through or other state affairs.” Asked about the impact that change can have on this process, Zaccara thinks that “the nuclear negotiations will continue and will be as legitimate as those of Rohaní, Khatami and Ahmadinejad.” The last word on such an important issue will always be with the Supreme Leader.