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In Iran, a presidential duel between a reformer and an ultraconservative

Photo: Raheb Homavandi Agence France-Presse Supporters of Massoud Pezeshkian, reformist candidate for the Iranian presidency, lift his portraits during a rally in Tehran, June 26, 2024. In this presidential duel, Pezeshkian and the ultraconservative Saïd Jalili came first in a first round where participation was the lowest since the beginning of the Islamic Republic in 1979.

Jérôme Rivet – Agence France-Presse to Tehran

Posted at 12:46 p.m. Updated at 3:02 p.m.

  • Middle East

The presidential election in Iran will be decided on July 5 between the reformer candidates Massoud Pezeshkian and the ultraconservative Saïd Jalili, who came out on top in a first round where participation was the lowest since the beginnings of the Islamic Republic in 1979.

Virtually unknown when he entered the race, MP Massoud Pezeshkian won 42.5% of the vote on Friday.

He beat Saïd Jalili, former nuclear negotiator, credited with 38.6% in the first round of this presidential election organized after the death of President Ebrahim Raïssi in a helicopter accident in May.

Neither of the two candidates having obtained an absolute majority, a second round is necessary, for only the second time in 14 presidential elections since 1979.

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In a video message, Mr. Pezeshkian called on his supporters to go to the polls again next week “to save the country from poverty, lies, discrimination and injustice.” .

Voters have a clear choice to make between this reformer who, while declaring himself loyal to the Islamic Republic, advocates openness, particularly internationally, and the ultraconservative defending the pursuit of an anti-Western policy and firmness on social issues, such as the wearing of the veil for women.

Saïd Jalili received the support on Saturday of the conservative President of Parliament, Mohamad Baquer Ghalibaf, who came third with 13.8% of the vote.

“I ask all revolutionary forces and my supporters” to “try to elect the candidate of the revolutionary front,” did he declare. Two other conservative candidates, who had dropped out before the first round, also called for voting for the ultraconservative.

To win, Massoud Pezeshkian will have to count on a mobilization of abstainers determined to block Saïd Jalili.

But the task turns out to be arduous while participation, in around 40% according to the authorities, was even lower than for the 2021 presidential election and for the legislative elections in March.

The calls to vote had however been launched at the both by the highest authority of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and by figures from the reform and moderate camps.

In addition, the voting operations, which were to end at 6 p.m., were extended until midnight.

Opponents, particularly those from the diaspora, had called for a boycott of the vote.

Very different candidates

The second round will be closely watched abroad as Iran, a Middle Eastern heavyweight, is at the heart of several geopolitical crises, from the war in Gaza to the nuclear issue, in which it opposes Western countries.

The election will have a limited impact, however, since the president has limited powers: he is responsible for implementing, at the head of the government, the broad political guidelines set by the supreme leader, who is the head of state.

Aged 69 and a surgeon by profession, Massoud Pezeshkian is a member of parliament for Tabriz, the large city in northwestern Iran, and has limited government experience, which comes down to a position as Minister of Health from 2001 to 2005 in the reformist government of Mohammad Khatami.

He became known for his outspokenness, not hesitating to criticize the government during the protest movement sparked by the death in detention of Mahsa Amini in September 2022.

He also advocates a warming of relations between Iran and Western countries, led by the United States, in order to lift the sanctions that are severely affecting the economy.

On the other hand, Saïd Jalili, 58, is in favor of an inflexible policy towards the West. He demonstrated this during the six years he led the Iranian nuclear negotiations, between 2007 and 2013.

Throughout his career, Mr. Jalili has risen to key positions within the Islamic Republic with the confidence of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

He is currently one of his two representatives on the Supreme National Security Council, the country's highest security body.

Without publishing the first results, the press took a position on Saturday morning according to its political attachment. “Long live hope”, headlined the reformist newspaper Sazandegi, publishing a photo of Massoud Pezeshkian, while the government daily Iran called for “voting for the authority of Iran”.

The election was marked by the death of two police officers in the Friday evening attack by armed men on a vehicle transporting ballot boxes in the troubled province of Sistan-Baluchestan (southeast), according to the 'Tasnim press agency.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116