Ebrahim Raisi secured his place as Iran’s new president after preliminary results showed a 14.5 million vote lead against his closest rival. Raisi’s victory statement outlined the cabinet he intends to create, forming a “hardworking, anti-corruption and revolutionary environment.” As president, Raisi will likely be negotiating America’s reentry into the 2015 nuclear deal, alongside making decisions on how to effectively deal with the pandemic and subsequent economic downturn.
His victory claiming over 50% of the vote ended eight years of dualism with centrist president Hassan Rouhani going against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps and conservative religious leaders. Hassan Rouhani’s presidency became unpopular after the United States imposed sanctions that began to deprive Iranians of benefits Rouhani had promised to provide. However, Iranian officials counted 28.6 million ballots, in 2017 over 41 million people cast their ballots. The turnout results indicate that the exclusion of all candidates campaigning to reform the existing governmental system to create a boycott was partially successful.
By barring strong challengers from competing against Raisi many theorize Khamenei the supreme leader of Iran successfully orchestrated Raisi’s victory. Voter turnout was down compared with the last presidential election four years ago. Ilan Goldenberg, director of the Middle East security program at the Center for New American Security, stated, “Khamenei wants someone who sees the world the way he sees the world.” As a former student of Khamenei, Raisi is sure to continue the supreme leader’s ideology and legacy. Weeks before the election, it was clear that leaders in Iran intended Raisi to win. Only those loyal to the supreme leader are allowed by the regime to run for president.
There is democratic legitimacy to the election that took place, however, clear disqualifications took place when a candidate rivaled Raisi in popularity. The blatancy of these disqualifications were recognized by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a security and military organization responsible for the continuation of Khamenei’s regime, called the election ‘undemocratic’.
Raisi’s conservative views on political dissent, women’s rights and foreign policy are unlikely to change, however, he has shown a willingness to abide by the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal. This deal limits Iran’s nuclear activities and allows international inspectors to investigate possible nuclear research in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. Raisi said during a debate in June that, “we would definitely abide by the [deal] which restricted Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.” He also outlined his strong belief that “foreign power is an extension of internal power”. Raisi adopting the position of Iran’s president means that he will likely be assisting Khamenei in realizing his vision of a second Islamic revolution. A revolution led by the next generation of Iranians, since many of the nation’s leading clerics are over the age of 70.
The International Crisis Group outlined how Khamenei may change the governmental system from a presidential system to a parliamentary system, removing contending forces between the offices of the president and supreme leader in order to simplify the passing of reforms. How Raisi runs Iran as president is likely a strong marker of how he will run it as supreme leader.