Iran’s presidential runoff: a historic crossroads

Iran’s presidential runoff: a historic crossroads
Iran’s presidential runoff: a historic crossroads

In Iran, reformer Masoud Pezeskhian, who won 42.5% of the vote in the first round of the presidential election, is preparing to face conservative Said Jalili this Friday, who won 38.6% of the vote. Iran’s presidential elections, although often tinged with controversy and tension, represent a crucial turning point in the country’s political history this year.

Indeed, the second round taking place this Friday pits two radically different visions against each other. On one side, we have a staunch conservative, and on the other, a reformer with hopes of modernization. The stakes are colossal, both for domestic policy and for the international relations of the Islamic Republic. This election, it must be remembered, aims to designate the successor to President Ebrahim Raissi, who tragically died in a helicopter crash on May 19.

Duel between tradition and reform

Of the 14 presidential elections held in the country, only one went to a second round, in 2005. Moreover, with a turnout of around 40%, still not officially confirmed, this election could mark the lowest turnout ever recorded since the creation of the Islamic Republic in 1979. The authorities were hoping for a strong turnout; Ayatollah Khamenei had even urged the 61 million voters to go to the polls in large numbers last Friday to counter the pro-Western candidates.

Iran is going through a period of profound social and economic transformation. International sanctions, the COVID-19 pandemic, and growing youth aspirations for greater freedoms have created fertile ground for change. Reformers, often seen as champions of political and economic openness, now seem to represent the hope of many Iranians tired of the current state.

The conservative candidate, for his part, embodies the continuity of a hard line, resolutely opposed to any form of liberalization which could, according to him, threaten the foundations of the Islamic Republic. His supporters, often from the most traditionalist layers of society, see him as the guarantor of revolutionary values ​​and national independence in the face of Western pressure.

Yet this rigid posture is increasingly challenged, particularly by an urban and educated population that yearns for greater personal and economic freedoms. Conservatives struggle to appeal beyond their traditional electoral base, and their economic proposals, often focused on self-sufficiency, seem disconnected from the realities of the globalized world.

The Reformer: A Glimmer of Hope?

The reformist candidate, for his part, is proposing an ambitious program of modernization. He advocates the relaxation of social laws, the improvement of civil rights and an economic opening aimed at attracting foreign investment. His speech, marked by a refreshing pragmatism, finds a favorable echo among young people and women, the main drivers of change in Iran.

However, the road is fraught with pitfalls. Reformers must navigate between the expectations of their electorate and the constraints imposed by existing power structures. The Revolutionary Guards, with their political and economic influence, are keeping a close eye on things and will not fail to curb any attempt at reform that goes against their interests.

The outcome of this election will have repercussions far beyond Iran’s borders. A reformist president could pave the way for a détente with the West, making it easier to lift economic sanctions and reintegrate Iran into the community of nations. On the other hand, a conservative victory would likely further isolate Tehran and heighten regional tensions, particularly with the United States and Israel.

International issues

The runoff election in Iran is not just a choice between two candidates, but a crucial decision about the future of the country. Iranians are at a historic crossroads, and their choice will determine not only the direction of their nation, but also the geopolitical balance in the Middle East.

The reformers’ hope lies in the mobilization of young people and progressives. Their victory could mark the beginning of a new era of modernization and openness. However, the obstacles are many and the path to change is uncertain. In any case, these elections will remain in the annals as a decisive moment in Iranian history.

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