Reformist Masoud Pezeshkian wins Iran's presidential election

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale - Senior Editor
7 Min Read
Reformist Masoud Pezeshkian wins Iran's presidential election

Reformist candidate Masoud Pezeshkian has won Iran's presidential election, CNN reported citing Press TV.

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Pezeshkian received more than 16.3 million votes out of the 30.5 million counted in the second round of voting on Friday, while his staunch conservative rival Saeed Jalili received more than 13.5 million, according to CNN.

According to the election headquarters under the auspices of the Interior Ministry, Iran's presidential election saw a voter turnout of 49.8 per cent, the report said.

Pezeshkian was elected in a second round of voting, as he received the most votes in the first round, ahead of Jalili. Voter turnout was the lowest in the first round of a presidential election since Iran's founding in 1979.

He will become president of a country facing growing international isolation, internal discontent, a declining economy and the possibility of direct conflict with Israel.

Iran held early elections after President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and other officials died in a helicopter crash in Iran's far northwest in May.

Pezeshkian was the only reformist candidate in the race for Iran's top elected seat after dozens of other candidates were barred from contesting. He has supported negotiations with Iran's enemies, particularly over its nuclear program, and sees this as a means of solving domestic issues in Iran.

“The main issue is one of perspective: do we want to solve our problems with the world or not? I believe we have to get out of the impasse in order to solve the country's problems,” Pezeshkian said in a recent presidential debate.

The president in Iran has some powers. However, the ultimate authority lies with the Supreme Leader of Iran, who makes the final decisions on state affairs.

Masoud Pezeshkian was the minister of health under reformist President Mohammad Khatami. He is a trained heart surgeon and jurist. He gained public attention with his stance against the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2009 and the violence committed by the notorious morality police after the death of Mahsa Amini in 2022.

Mahsa Amini died in the custody of morality police after being detained for not complying with Iran's strict dress code for women. Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands arrested as authorities try to suppress the protests, CNN reported, citing the United Nations.

Amini died in the custody of morality police after she was detained for not complying with the Islamic republic's strict dress code for women. According to the United Nations, hundreds of people have been killed and thousands arrested as authorities try to crush the protests.

During the 2022 protests, Pezeshkian said in an interview with Iran's IRINN TV, “It is our fault. We want to impose religious faith through the use of force. It is scientifically impossible.”

He said, “I am to some extent guilty, respected religious scholars and mosques are to some extent guilty, and the (Iranian) broadcasting authority is to some extent guilty.”

“Instead of arresting the girl, beating her up and eventually handing over her body (to her family), everyone should come forward and be held accountable,” he said.

Pezeshkian (69) has presented himself as a candidate for all the people of Iran. After losing his wife and one of his children in a car accident in 1994, he devoted most of his time to politics. He contested for the presidency in 2013 and 2021. However, he did not advance.

He comes from a mixed ethnic family. His father is Azeri and his mother is Kurdish and his mother tongue is not Persian.

The 69-year-old comes from a mixed ethnic family – his father is Azeri and his mother is Kurdish. Persian is not his mother tongue. This has boosted his image among minorities in Iran. However, it also leaves him open to xenophobic attacks from some opponents.

According to experts, a more liberal face as Iran's president could make dialogue between Iran and Western countries easier. Pezeshkian could also bring some social changes, which he talked about during his election campaign. However, experts have said that such steps are not guaranteed.

Sanam Vakil, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at the London-based Chatham House think tank, said it was unlikely that Pezeshkian’s election would lead to immediate policy change.

“But Pezeshkian has made it clear he will try to work within the system to perhaps create a less oppressive environment,” the lawyer said, CNN reported.

He said reformists do not guarantee they can make these changes, adding that it shows the limits of the president's powers in Iran. “But (it) may provide a little more room for maneuver on social freedoms,” the lawyer said.

He will become President of Iran at a time when Iran faces growing tensions with Israel and its Western allies, exacerbated by the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and the progress of Iran's nuclear program.

A few months ago, Iran and Israel exchanged gunfire for the first time as the conflict in Gaza escalated. Israel is now preparing for a potential second front against Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Last week, Iran's mission to the United Nations said that if Israel “launches a full-scale military invasion” against Lebanon, “a catastrophic war would begin,” CNN reports.

“All options are being considered, including the full participation of all resistance fronts,” Iran's mission to the United Nations said in a post on Twitter.

In response, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said that “the regime that threatens destruction must be destroyed.” According to experts, Pezeshkian is not expected to change his stance toward Israel.

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