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Tuesday, July 16, 2024, 10:58 am

Tuesday, July 16, 2024, 10:58 am

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Iran awaits a reformer.

Iran awaits a reformer.
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After no candidate received 50% of the vote in the first round of Iran’s snap presidential elections, the top two vote-getters, reformist Masoud Pezeshkian and conservative Saeed Jalili, will face off on July 5. Mr. Pezeshkian, former Minister of Health under reformist President Mohammed Khatami, received 42.5% of the vote. Mr. Jalili, Iran’s former chief nuclear negotiator, received 38.8% of the vote.

Conservative Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf finished third with 13.8% of the vote.

The election, triggered by the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash in May, comes at a critical time for Iran. Economic woes and increased cultural policing have led to widespread popular discontent. Iran is under pressure to control its proxies, including Yemen’s Houthis and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, following the Israel-Hamas war. Iran is advancing its nuclear project despite international pressure. Tensions with Israel increased in April when Tehran launched a missile attack on the Jewish state after its embassy in Damascus was attacked. While a new President, whether reformist or conservative, may not affect essential policies, the highest elected official in the republic can influence how critical policies are implemented.

Reformist leaders like Mr. Khatami and Hassan Rouhani were elected with promises of change, but accomplished little to open up the system, which is heavily influenced by the Shia religion. The failure to change the system and address economic issues caused by western sanctions has led to apathy among the voters.

Previously, Iran’s clerical leadership used voting turnout to justify the revolutionary state, which is both representative and theocratic. This year’s voter turnout was 39.9%, down from almost 80% in 2009. This isn’t surprising. Conservatives control all branches of government, with reformist politicians forbidden from running. Reformists face constraints from unelected institutions like the Supreme Leader’s office and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, even if they win elections. The conservatives’ near-total control over institutions, combined with the clergy’s resistance to change, is eroding the minimal democracy that the revolution offered. Economic challenges and repression of the Islamic law are exacerbating the issue. Iran can be proud of holding a presidential election amid problems. Leaders must prepare for political and social reforms in response to rising discontent and declining voter interest.

 

 

ABHISHEK VERMA


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