Iran shifts focus to presidential election after mourning Ebrahim Raisi

Iran mourns President Ebrahim Raisi's death in a helicopter crash, focusing on the upcoming election for his successor. The June vote faces challenges amid the Gaza war, economic hardship, and diplomatic tensions over Iran's nuclear program.

Mausam Jha
First Published28 May 2024
Iranian clerical lawmakers attend the opening ceremony of Iran's 12th parliament in Tehran, Iran, May 27, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS
Iranian clerical lawmakers attend the opening ceremony of Iran’s 12th parliament in Tehran, Iran, May 27, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS (via REUTERS)

Following the mourning period for President Ebrahim Raisi, who passed away in a recent helicopter crash, Iran shifted its attention to the upcoming election next month for his successor.

With the conservative camp aiming to install a loyalist to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the lead-up to the early vote on June 28 has prompted a diverse array of hopefuls from various political factions to enter the fray.

The registration for presidential candidates will start on Thursday.

Iranian lawmakers on Tuesday reaffirmed their choice of former Revolutionary Guards commander Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf as the speaker of parliament. Qalibaf had been touted as a potential candidate in the presidential race by insiders and Iranian state media, AP reported.

Also Read:  Who was Ebrahim Raisi? Protégé of Iran's supreme leader Ali Khamenei

Ultraconservative Raisi, who had over a year remaining in his first term, passed away on May 19 in a helicopter crash, along with his foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and six others. The accident occurred when their helicopter collided with a fog-covered mountainside.

Meanwhile, they were honoured with multi-day funeral ceremonies, which drew large crowds of mourners.

The June election is scheduled during a turbulent period marked by the ongoing Gaza conflict between Israel and Hamas, a Palestinian militant group backed by Tehran. This comes amid ongoing diplomatic tensions regarding Iran's nuclear program.

Additionally, Iran is grappling with significant economic challenges exacerbated by the re-imposition of tough international sanctions following the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal, alongside aftermaths of widespread anti-government protests.

Who are all on the presidential list fray?

Khamenei, who has ultimate authority over state matters, has tasked Raisi's vice president, Mohammad Mokhber, aged 68, with overseeing interim responsibilities and organizing the June election, AP reported.

Media reports suggest Mokhber, parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, and several prominent former officials plan to run for Iran's second-highest post.

Among the array of contenders, ultraconservative former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili emerged as one of the initial candidates to declare his bid for the presidency.

Also Read: What's on horizon for Iran's government after Ebrahim Raisi's death?

Other notable hopefuls include moderate former foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and centrist Ali Larijani, who previously held the position of parliament speaker.

As reported by AP, Populist ex-president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has so far kept voters guessing and said he is “checking the conditions to decide whether to register”.

“We have to wait for positive developments in the country,” he added.

Way ahead

Political expert Abbas Abdi told the reformist newspaper Hammihan that if Iran's "protesting community" sees an opportunity for change, it “will show its protest, activism and responsibility through participating in the election”.

Also Read: Western officials brace for volatile Iran after Raisi death

He said that he was “sure that the reformists will win with a huge margin”, but only if they are allowed to participate -- a major concern after many candidates were disqualified ahead of recent elections.

Abdi added that if the authorities permit a broad spectrum of candidates to run this time, "it will create the necessary hope in the people and lead to high participation".

Also Read: Ebrahim Raisi dies in helicopter crash: What does Iranian President's death mean for India-Iran ties?

Under Iran's electoral procedures, candidates will have a designated period, commencing on May 30, to officially register their candidacy. However, the final roster hinges on the validation process conducted by the conservative-leaning Guardian Council, following the June 3 registration deadline. 

This 12-member body, responsible for supervising elections, has previously disqualified numerous candidates, including figures like Ahmadinejad and Larijani.

Recent parliamentary and presidential elections have witnessed a decline in voter turnout despite governmental efforts to incentivize participation.

Before Iran's parliamentary elections on March 1, the Guardian Council invalidated tens of thousands of candidates, predominantly from reformist and moderate factions.

This vetting process effectively consolidated the influence of conservative and ultraconservative politicians in Iran's political landscape. The March legislative election recorded the lowest voter turnout since 1979.

(With inputs from AP)

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