Khamenei protege, sole moderate to battle in Iran’s presidential run-off

Turnout was about 40 percent, according to the interior ministry – the lowest on record since the 1979 revolution

Published: Updated:
Read Mode
100% Font Size
3 min read

A moderate lawmaker will face Iran supreme leader’s protege in a run-off presidential election on July 5 after the country’s interior ministry said on Saturday that no candidate secured enough votes in the first round of voting.

Friday’s vote to replace Ebrahim Raisi after his death in a helicopter crash came down to a tight race between a low-profile lawmaker Massoud Pezeshkian, the sole moderate in a field of four candidates, and former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) member Saeed Jalili.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The interior ministry said neither secured the 50 percent plus one vote of over 25 million ballots cast required to win outright, with Pezeshkian leading with over 10 million votes ahead of Jalili with over 9.4 million votes.

An electoral staff empties full ballot boxes after voting ended at a polling station, in a snap presidential election to choose a successor to Ebrahim Raisi following his death in a helicopter crash, in Tehran, Iran, June 29, 2024. (Via Reuters)
An electoral staff empties full ballot boxes after voting ended at a polling station, in a snap presidential election to choose a successor to Ebrahim Raisi following his death in a helicopter crash, in Tehran, Iran, June 29, 2024. (Via Reuters)

Power in Iran ultimately lies with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, so the result will not herald any major policy shift on Iran’s nuclear program or its support for militia groups across the Middle East.

But the president runs the government day-to-day and can influence the tone of Iran’s policy.

The clerical establishment hoped for a high turnout as it faces a legitimacy crisis fueled by public discontent over economic hardship and curbs on political and social freedom. However, turnout in Friday’s vote hit a historic low of about 40 percent, based on interior ministry count released on Saturday.

Iranian presidential candidate Saeed Jalili looks on during a campaign event at Sharif University in Tehran, Iran, June 22, 2024. (Via Reuters)
Iranian presidential candidate Saeed Jalili looks on during a campaign event at Sharif University in Tehran, Iran, June 22, 2024. (Via Reuters)

The election comes at a time of escalating regional tension due to the war between Israel and Iranian allies Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as increased Western pressure on Iran over its fast-advancing nuclear program.

With Iran’s supreme leader now 85, it is likely that the next president will be closely involved in the process of choosing a successor to Khamenei, who seeks a fiercely loyal president who can ensure a smooth eventual succession to his own position, insiders and analysts say.

Anti-Western views of Jalili, Iran’s former uncompromising nuclear negotiator, offer a contrast to those of Pezeshkian. Analysts said Jalili’s win would signal the possibility of an even more antagonistic turn in the Islamic Republic’s foreign and domestic policy.

But a victory for mild-mannered lawmaker Pezeshkian might help ease tensions with the West, improve chances of economic reform, social liberalization and political pluralism.

Presidential candidate Masoud Pezeshkian votes at a polling station in a snap presidential election to choose a successor to Ebrahim Raisi following his death in a helicopter crash, in Tehran, Iran, June 28, 2024. (Via Reuters)
Presidential candidate Masoud Pezeshkian votes at a polling station in a snap presidential election to choose a successor to Ebrahim Raisi following his death in a helicopter crash, in Tehran, Iran, June 28, 2024. (Via Reuters)

Pezeshkian, faithful to Iran’s theocratic rule, is backed by the reformist faction that has largely been sidelined in Iran in recent years.

“We will respect the hijab law, but there should never be any intrusive or inhumane behavior toward women,” Pezeshkian said after casting his vote.

He was referring to the death of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman, in 2022 while in morality police custody for allegedly violating the mandatory Islamic dress code.

The unrest sparked by Amini’s death spiraled into the biggest show of opposition to Iran’s clerical rulers in years.

Read more:

Everything you need to know ahead of Iran’s June 28 presidential election

Two candidates drop out of Iran presidential race

Iran’s ex-president Rouhani endorses reformist Pezeshkian for June 28 election

Top Content Trending