Iran: Ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi Wins Presidential Election Amid Low Voter Turnout
The win comes as no surprise, as many believe that the outcome was pre-decided.
With hardliners dominating Iran’s electoral list, any expectations for radical changes are mere false hopes as it is widely believed that the security and religious apparatus preferred Raisi regardless of Iranians’ demands.
Iranians have lost faith in the entire system after Ebrahim Raisi, an ultraconservative cleric, won Iran’s presidential election on June 18 amid low voter turnout. With hardliners dominating the electoral list, any expectations for radical changes are false hopes. The win came as no surprise, as many believe that the outcome was already decided before the election itself. It is widely believed that the security and religious apparatus preferred Raisi regardless of Iranians’ demands. Truth to be told, he is the favorite son of Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, and the top political and religious figure in Iran.
Earlier this month, the Guardian Council, a 12-member body that vets political candidates, excluded potential candidates which were expected to pose a threat to Raisi.
Ultraconservative Ebrahim Raisi unsuccessfully challenged the reformist President Hassan Rouhani in the 2017 elections but he proved victorious this time.
Raisi fiercely supports the supreme leader and is expected to be his successor. Khamenei appointed Raisi for top political and religious positions. For example, Raisi led the powerful religious foundation Astan Quds Razavi, which manages the shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad. This major Shiite pilgrimage site attracts billions of euros in donations controlled by Astan Quds Razavi.
Later on, Khamenei appointed him to lead the judicial branch. It is widely agreed that Raisi is responsible for the mass execution of political prisoners. Add to this, he is one of the top Iranian officials to be sanctioned, according to US reports.
Numerous challenges ahead
It will be naïve to argue that the Iranians are waiting for any radical change. The country is crippled by economic downturns, sanctions, and a high unemployment rate. The victory of Raisi might worsen the situation, especially when it comes to human rights and political freedoms.
Amnesty International and human rights groups have anxieties and fears regarding the human rights situation under Raisi’s rule. Instead of being investigated for crimes against humanity, he is elected president.
He is not expected to open the country for foreign investors but he will keep Iran’s investment in infrastructure.
Diplomatic editor for The Guardian, Patrick Wintour said: “In this election, protected by a phalanx of other conservative candidates, Raisi made few specific commitments about how he would create a strong economy, or improve housing, stressing his fight against corruption including in the judiciary.”
But his period as head of the judiciary has not been marked by reform, despite promises to stage political trials or the practice of prolonged isolation, Wintour added.
When it comes to Iran’s foreign policy, we can’t expect any radical change. At the end of the day, Khamenei has the final say on all policies. Despite Raisi’s hostile rhetoric toward the west, he is aware that the country is paralyzed by economic downturns since the onset of US sanctions.
Though China’s plan to invest in Iran is a good opportunity for Tehran to wean itself off the west, the Iranian public refuses any attempts aimed at strengthening relations with Beijing.
While China’s support for Iran was expected to increase Iranian leverage on the negotiation table, establishing a robust relation with China is a long way off.