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Iran: duel between a reformer and an ultraconservative for the presidential election

The presidential election in Iran will be decided on July 5 between the reformer candidates Massoud Pezeshkian and ultraconservative Saïd Jalili, who came in first place of a first round where ù 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 negotiator of the file nuclear, 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.

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 of the conservative President of Parliament, Mohamad Baquer Ghalibaf, on Saturday, 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,” he declared. Two other conservative candidates, who had dropped out before the first round, also called for voting for the ultraconservative.

Iran: duel between a reformer and an ultraconservative for the presidential election

A voter votes for the Iranian presidential election at a polling station in Tehran on June 28, 2024. © AFP – RAHEB HOMAVANDI

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

But the task is proving difficult as participation, at 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 both by the highest authority of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and by figures from the reform camps and moderate.

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

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

Iran: duel between a reformer and an ultraconservative for the presidential election

Massoud Pezeshkian votes in Tehran on June 28, 2024 © AFP – ATTA KENARE

– Very different candidates –

The second round will be closely followed abroad while Iran, heavyweight in the Middle -East, 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, however, have a limited impact since the president has restricted powers: he is responsible for applying, at the head of the government, the main political guidelines set by the supreme guide, 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, limited to serving as Minister of Health from 2001 to 2005. in the reform government of Mohammad Khatami.

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

Iran: duel between a reformer and an ultraconservative for the presidential election

Iranian presidential candidate and ultraconservative Saeed Jalili votes in Tehran on June 28, 2024 © AFP – RAHEB HOMAVANDI

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

Contrary, Saïd Jalili, 58 years old, is a supporter of an inflexible policy towards the West. He demonstrated this during the six years in which he led negotiations on Iranian nuclear power, between 2007 and 2013.

Throughout his career, Mr. Jalili accessed key positions within the Islamic Republic with the trust of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

He is currently one of its two representatives on the Supreme National Security Council, the highest security body in the country.

Iran: duel between a reformer and an ultraconservative for the presidential election

Photo montage made on June 29, 2024 showing archive photos of the two candidates qualified for the second round of the presidential election in Iran, the ultraconservative Saïd Jalili (L) and the reformer Massoud Pezeshkian (D) © AFP – RAHEB HOMAVANDI, ATTA KENARE

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.

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

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