What can the presidential victory of reformer Massoud Pezeshkian change?

What can the presidential victory of reformer Massoud Pezeshkian change?
What can the presidential victory of reformer Massoud Pezeshkian change?

The election of this 69-year-old reformer and moderate could mean the return of “constructive relations” with the United States, the enemy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, but also with European countries in order to bring the country out of its “isolation”.

A new lease of life for Iran? Reformer Massoud Pezeshkian, who advocates an opening towards the West, won the presidential election in Iran on Saturday, July 6, against the ultraconservative Said Jalili.

Organised hastily after the death in May of ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash, the presidential election was held in a context of popular discontent over the state of the country’s economy, which has been hit by international sanctions.

At the end of the second round of voting on Friday, the winner received 53.6% of the votes against 44.3% for his opponent, according to the final results communicated by the electoral authorities. After a first round on June 28 marked by a high abstention rate, participation stood at 49.8%.

“The path ahead is difficult. It will only be easy with your cooperation, empathy and trust. I extend my hand to you,” Massoud Pezeshkian, 69, told X after his victory.

Voice of the voiceless

It was a surprise victory. No one would have bet on the deputy from Tabriz, the large city in northwestern Iran, when his candidacy was accepted by the Guardian Council along with five other candidates, all conservatives.

Massoud Pezeshkian is not one of the leading figures of the reformist and moderate camps, but he has received support from former presidents, the reformist Mohammad Khatami and the moderate Hassan Rouhani.

This father, who raised three children alone after the death of his wife and another child in a car accident in 1993, presents himself as the “voice of the voiceless”.

The president-elect is calling for a resolution to the issue of compulsory veiling for women, one of the causes of the vast protest movement that shook Iran in late 2022 after the death of Mahsa Amini, arrested for not respecting the strict dress code.

As the Washington Post points out in an article dedicated to him, Pezeshkian agrees with the strict dress code imposed on women, including the mandatory wearing of the chador, a long piece of cloth that covers the body from head to toe.

However, he denies that Iranian women are less well-treated citizens than men.

“The idea that women are second-class citizens and are only created for the good of the family is something that needs to change. Women exist alongside men in economics, science and industry, and we should put them back in their positions.

Looking to the West

The Iranian election was 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 the West.

Called the “doctor” by many Iranians, Massoud Pezeshkian is in favor of “constructive relations” with the United States, the enemy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and European countries in order to bring the country out of its “isolation.”

He thus promised to negotiate with Washington to relaunch talks on Iranian nuclear power, at a standstill since the American withdrawal in 2018 from an international agreement concluded in 2015.

Opposition figures in Iran and in the diaspora had called for a boycott of the vote, saying the conservative and reformist camps represented two sides of the same coin.

Another Middle Eastern heavyweight, Saudi Arabia, congratulated the new president, King Salman, hoping to “develop relations between the two brotherly countries” which reconciled in 2023 after several years of rupture.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin extended his “heartfelt congratulations” to Pezeshkian and hoped for “strengthening of bilateral cooperation.”

Joy in the Iranian streets

Shortly after the final result was announced, images broadcast by local media showed supporters of the reformer expressing their joy in the streets in Tehran and Tabriz.

Iranians interviewed by AFP after the election welcomed his victory, others said they did not believe in change.

“We are very happy that he won. We need a literate president to solve the economic problems,” said Abolfazl, a 40-year-old architect.

“I don’t feel concerned. These (candidates) only raise slogans. When they take power, they do nothing for the people,” said Roya, a 50-year-old housewife.

The president in Iran has limited powers: he is responsible for implementing, at the head of the government, the broad political guidelines set by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is the head of state and the ultimate decision-maker on strategic issues.

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