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Iranians at the polls for a presidential election more open than expected

Photo: Morteza Fakhrinejad IRIB via Agence France-Presse Having started without passion, the campaign was more contested than the previous one in 2021, thanks to the presence of reformer Massoud Pezeshkian who emerged as one of the three favorites.

Ramin Khanizadeh – Agence France-Presse and Jérôme Rivet – Agence France-Presse in Tehran

Published at 11:02 a.m.

  • Middle East

Iranians are called to the polls on Friday to elect a new president from six candidates, including a previously unknown reformer who hopes to shake up the pre-eminence of conservatives.

< p>This presidential election, initially scheduled for 2025, was organized in a few weeks to replace President Ebrahim Raïssi, killed in a helicopter accident on May 19.

It takes place in a delicate context for the Islamic Republic, which must manage both internal tensions and geopolitical crises, from the war in Gaza to the nuclear issue, just five months before the presidential election in the United States, its sworn enemy. .

Having started without passion, the campaign was more contested than the previous one in 2021, thanks to the presence of reformer Massoud Pezeshkian who established himself as one of the three favorites.

His two main opponents are the conservative President of Parliament, Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, and Saïd Jalili, the former ultraconservative nuclear negotiator.

This competition could lead to a second round, which has only been the case during one presidential election, in 2005, since the advent of the Islamic Republic there is 45.

Iranians at the polls for a presidential election more open than expected

Photo: Raheb Homavandi Agence France-Presse Young Iranians gather in a park in northern Tehran. (Photo by RAHEB HOMAVANDI/AFP)

“Unemployment” and “poverty”

To have a chance of winning, Massoud Pezeshkian must hope for a strong participation, unlike the 2021 presidential election, marked by a record abstention of 51% while no reformer or moderate candidate was authorized to compete.

Tuesday , Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called on Iranians for “high turnout” in the vote.

“There is no question of me voting” because “whoever is elected, it will not change anything for the people,” said Neda, a female engineer interviewed by AFP in Tajrish, in the north of Tehran.

Jaleh, a 60-year-old housewife, on the other hand declared herself ready to “vote this year”, a “duty” when “there are so many issues” to resolve “like unemployment or poverty”.

For Ali Vaez, Iran expert at the International Crisis Group, the future president will have to take up “the challenge of widening the gap between the State and the society “. So far, none of the candidates “has presented a concrete plan to solve the problems”, he believes.

Reformer Pezeshkian, father of a family 69-year-old widower, assured that it was possible to “improve” some of the problems facing the 85 million Iranians.

But, in the eyes of some voters, this doctor-turned-MP lacks government experience, having only been Minister of Health around twenty years ago.

Conversely, Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf is, at 62, a veteran of politics after a career in the Revolutionary Guards, the powerful ideological army of the Islamic Republic.

< p>“I will vote for Ghalibaf because he is both a wise manager and a commander of the Guardians”, which is good for “the security” of the country, explained Alireza Valadkhani, a 35-year-old consultant interviewed by the 'AFP.

For his part, Saïd Jalili, 58, who lost a leg during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, attracts the most fervent supporters of the Islamic Republic, by supporting the inflexible firmness of Tehran against Western countries.

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The veil in question

On the other hand, Massoud Pezeshkian pleads for a warming of relations with the United States United and Europe in order to lift the sanctions which are severely affecting the economy. He received the support of the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Javad Zarif, the architect of the nuclear agreement concluded with the great powers in 2015.

The reformer also calls for resolving the persistent issue of the compulsory wearing of the veil for women, one of the causes of the vast protest movement which shook the country at the end of 2022 after the death of Mahsa Amini, arrested for non-compliance with the dress code.

“For 40 years we have sought to control the hijab, but we have only made the situation worse,” lamented Mr. Pezeshkian.

Most others candidates adopted a cautious attitude on this issue, declaring themselves rather opposed to the deployment of the moral police.

One of the certainties of the election is that the next president will be a civilian and not a Shiite cleric, like the two previous ones, Hassan Rouhani and Ebrahim Raïssi.

He cannot therefore be considered as a potential successor to Ayatollah Khamenei , aged 85 and at the head of Iran for 35 years.

Ex-President Rouhani supports the reform candidate

Moderate former Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday called for a vote for reformist candidate Massoud Pezeshkian in Friday's presidential election, expressing hope that he could improve relations with Western countries.

In a video message broadcast on the last day of the campaign, Hassan Rouhani, aged 75 and president from 2013 to 2021, estimated that Massoud Pezeshkian possessed “qualities such as honesty, courage and loyalty to the Nation” to become president of the Islamic Republic.

“I ask those who want constructive relations with the world and moderation to vote for Dr. Massoud Pezeshkian,” he added.

The former president insisted on the fact that the candidate wanted, if elected, to “relaunch” the agreement concluded in 2015, under his presidency, on Iranian nuclear power with the great powers, which had opened the way to a improvement of relations with Western countries.

This agreement was denounced in 2018 by the United States, following the decision of President Donald Trump, who imposed severe sanctions against Iran, and negotiations to revive it are currently at a standstill.

“We must vote for someone who is determined to remove the shadow of sanctions from the Iranian people,” said Hassan Rouhani.

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