Iran faces its destiny to elect its next president

May 19, 2024, the world holds its breath. Ebrahim Raissi, Iran's 63-year-old president, had just died in a helicopter crash. A few hours later, the Islamic Republic of Iran announced the death of the president, opening a period of uncertainty for the country. According to the Iranian constitution, new elections must be held within 50 days of Ebrahim Raissi's sudden death.

Iranians wait in line to vote in the presidential election, June 28, 2024, in Tehran.  © Majid Asgaripour, West Asia News Agency via Reuters

This Friday, June 28, Iran's 61 million electors go to the polls to elect their new president. This emergency election is of particular importance as it could mark a major political turning point for Iran, with reformers and conservatives divided over the country's future.

High-stakes elections

First of all, it's important to understand that these presidential elections are taking place against a backdrop of high social tension and political and economic uncertainty. The candidates will not only have to convince a deeply divided electorate, but also navigate a complex political landscape where international tensions and internal problems weigh heavily. Iran has been facing major economic challenges for several years now, not least as a result of international sanctions and diplomatic isolation.

Pezeshkian keeps hopes alive

Massoud Pezeshkian, 69, an Azeri-born doctor turned member of parliament, is the only reformist candidate authorized by the Guardian Council. Almost unknown before his candidacy, he has become a symbol of hope for the reformist and moderate camps, marginalized in recent years. Pezeshkian promises profound social and economic reforms, a fight against corruption and, above all, a diplomatic opening that will enable Iran to escape from diplomatic isolation and the infernal circle of sanctions.

To face him, 2 conservatives, Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf and Saïd Jalili. Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf is the current Speaker of Parliament and a former military commander. He advocates an economic policy of resistance and national self-sufficiency, in line with the principles of the Islamic Revolution. He also favors a cautious foreign policy, wary of the West. Saïd Jalili is the former Iranian nuclear negotiator. He is firmly opposed to any rapprochement with the West. He takes a hard line on national security issues and supports the development of Iran's nuclear program.

Concrete changes if Pezeshkian is elected

Massoud Pezeshkian has made clear his desire to moderate headscarf laws. The hijab debate, revived after the death of Mahsa Amini in 2022, remains a hot topic. Pezeshkian is the only candidate openly critical of current repressive methods and willing to allow greater freedom of expression and choice for Iranian women. On the issue of Iran's nuclear program, Pezeshkian's position is one of openness and negotiation. He has stressed the need to revive the Iran nuclear deal signed in 2015 in order to lift the severe economic sanctions crippling the country's economy. Unlike his more conservative opponents, he favors constructive dialogue with the world's major powers, including the United States, to improve Iran's economic situation.

The presidential elections in post-Raissi Iran are a decisive moment for the country. Although the president-elect will have far less power than the Ayatollah, the choice of a reformist or a conversavist will have a major impact on the country's stability and prosperity.