Iranian elections have the potential to influence nuclear deal with the West | Best countries
Iran’s Interior Ministry announced on June 19 that the winner is Ebrahim Raisi, Iranian justice chief and close ally of the Supreme Leader. He was virtually assured of victory after candidates who could have posed a serious challenge to him – including three Reformers – were disqualified and barred from participating in the election.
But who is Ebrahim Raisi, and how will his presidency change Iran’s domestic and foreign policies? As an economist and a keen observer of Iran, I believe we can begin to answer these questions by exploring its past.
Raisi is a staunch regime insider with a long career in the Iranian judicial branch, spanning more than four decades.
He was only 19 when the Islamic revolution overthrew the shah in 1979. As a young Islamic activist, he attracted the attention of several prominent revolutionary clerics, including Ali Khamenei, who became the supreme leader of Iran a decade later.
Appointed attorney general of Kataj – a small town near Tehran – at age 20, Raisi quickly rose to more important positions. In 1989, when Khamenei replaced Ruhollah Khomeini as Supreme Leader, Raisi was promoted to Chief Prosecutor General of Tehran.
This promotion reflected the high level of confidence Khamenei had in him. While in these positions, Raisi also attended seminary and religious studies under Khamenei and other influential religious leaders.
Photos to see – June 2021
Execute dissidents and fight corruption
During the first decade of his career, Raisi condemned a large number of dissidents and political opponents of the Islamic regime and sentenced several to death.
Critics of the regime and its political opponents condemned its direct role in these executions, in particular the large number of political prisoners executed in 1988.
From 1994 to 2004, Raisi headed the office of the Iranian inspector general, responsible for preventing abuse of power and corruption in government institutions. It was in this position that he developed a reputation as a crusader against government corruption. Even though he was appointed first deputy chief justice in 2004 and eventually promoted to chief justice in March 2019, he continued his fight against corruption by prosecuting numerous government officials.
Critics have argued, however, that its fight against corruption is highly politicized and selective. They claimed he was targeting individuals affiliated with his political rivals such as President Hassan Rouhani.
Raisi first ran for president in 2017, but was defeated by current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who, after two terms, is not eligible to run for re-election.
In this year’s election, Raisi was the preferred candidate of the conservative right wing of the Islamic ruling elite and also enjoys the support of Ayatollah Khamenei, who has absolute power over all branches of government. Khamenei also directly appoints half of the 12 members of the Guardian Council, which oversees all political elections and has the power to disqualify candidates without any public explanation. Khamenei publicly approved and defended the disqualifications.
Likely return to nuclear deal
One of the institutional weaknesses of the Iranian political system since the 1979 Islamic revolution is the potential for tension and disagreement between elected presidents and the supreme leader.
In other words, unlike the American system of government, the powers of the Iranian president are extremely limited. For example, a reformist president may want to engage more with the West or stay out of a foreign conflict, but the supreme leader might override or simply ignore it.
As a protégé and close ally of the Supreme Leader, Raisi is expected to support Khamenei’s policies on domestic and foreign policy, which means greater coordination between different branches of government. With parliament also dominated by Khamenei supporters, it also means that the Tories will once again control all three branches of government after eight years.
This harmony means that Raisi will be much more effective as president, because whatever policy he leads, he will most likely be supported by the Supreme Leader.
And perhaps ironically, his victory could pave the way for a more compromising stance on Iran’s side in the negotiations that are currently underway in Vienna for the reinstatement of the 2015 nuclear deal, which derailed by the former US President Donald Trump in 2018.
The reason for this unconventional prediction is that reformist and conservative factions in Iran are fully aware that a new nuclear deal, which could end severe economic sanctions imposed on the country, is very popular. The team that signs the deal will be given credit for ending the economic hardship the country is currently experiencing. For example, inflation is over 50%, exports have fallen due to sanctions, and more than 60% of the population now lives in poverty, up from 48% just two years ago.
With President Raisi, the Conservatives and the Supreme Leader have more incentive to strike a deal with the United States to lift the sanctions because they can no longer blame a reformist president for economic woes.
The success of this strategy is, however, far from guaranteed.
Second, the growing alienation and frustration of large segments of the Iranian population – especially after reformists were barred from running for president – can still lead to mass unrest and political instability.
Supreme Leader Raisi?
Raisi’s victory could have an even bigger impact on Iranian politics in the long run, as it could pave the way for him to become Iran’s next supreme leader.
Ayatollah Khamenei is 80 years old and a succession to a new Supreme Leader is considered likely within the next four years. According to many regime insiders, Raisi has become the person most likely to replace Khamenei by winning the presidential election.
If Raisi eventually became Iran’s supreme ruler, he would have a lot more power to shape all types of policies. Based on his background and values, he is likely to resist political and social reforms and try to gain legitimacy for the Islamic regime by focusing on economic development in the same way as authoritarian regimes in Asia. , like China, focusing on economic growth. while limiting political and social freedoms.
Raisi – and possibly as supreme leader – is unlikely to give up Iran’s anti-Western foreign policy, but he has the potential to reduce tensions to a more manageable level in order to improve Iran’s economy.
In my opinion, he seems to have recognized that the continuation of the current economic difficulties poses the greatest threat to the Islamic regime in the long run.