The Aftermath of Tragedy: What Lies Ahead for Iran?

Nuzhat Tabassum | 04 June 2024
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Iran has started registering presidential candidates to replace the late President Ebrahim Raisi this month. The election for the next president was supposed to be held in 2025. However, the sudden death of Raisi on May 19, brought the election forward on June 28.Ebrahim Raisi and Iran’s foreign minister Amirabdollahian died in a helicopter crash on May 19 as they were returning from Azerbaijan after inaugurating the Qiz Qalasi and Khoda Afarin dams, a joint hydroelectric power project with Azerbaijan. It is another blow to Iran after the death of Qassem Soleimani and Mohammad Reza Zahedi. The death of Ebrahim Raisi came at a worse time for Iran when the country was engulfed in internal and regional problems. According to state media, the crash was due to a technical failure in the Dizmar forest in the East Azerbaijan province near the border of Iran and Azerbaijan. Some analysts blame decades-long US sanctions on Iran, making it hard for Iran to obtain certain spare parts as those parts were essential to maintain older jets. 

Though Ebahim Raisi’s sudden death came as a shock to the world, it is unlikely that his death is going to change the foreign policies of Iran. He was elected as the president of Iran in 2021 but he was under the authority of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. However, he was seen as the successor to 85 old Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who holds the ultimate power in Iran. Raisi is known to be a loyalist of Khamenei, enforcing Khamenei’s edicts.

His death created a power vacuum in Iran. According to Section 131 of Iran’s constitution, Raisis’ vice president, Mohammad Mokhber will be the interim president until a new president is elected by June 28. Also, Ali Bagheri Kani, previously, a top nuclear negotiator, was appointed by the cabinet as the country’s acting foreign minister. But it is unlikely that Mokhber will succeed Raisi. He will be replaced by a successor following an election. The president of Iran acts as the prime minister and is in charge of the Supreme Council for National Security which deals with issues related to national security as well as responsible for making recommendations to the supreme leader on these subjects. Raisi’s death will create fear of political instability as the country is suffering a deep decline in public confidence. But most importantly, Raisi’s death is a blow to Khamenei himself. It was the supreme leader of Iran who engineered Raisi’s election to ensure that the regime continued its ideological identity and was a future successor of the supreme leader position, due to Raisis’ blind loyalty to the regime. 

It is making arrangements for a new election on June 28. The registration process started on May 30 and ended on June 03. The Guardian Council will publish the final list of candidates by June 11. Saeed Jalili is a prominent candidate. He is a former nuclear negotiator and head of the country’s top security body and is representing the conservative camp. Ali Larijani, a former speaker of Iran’s parliament is backed by the reformist camp. On the last day parliament speaker Ghalibaf, a veteran conservative political figure and former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) registered for the elections. Former Revolutionary Guards commander Vahid Haghanian, a close aide of supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who is sanctioned by the US Treasury also registered for the elections. Another prominent figure and popular among the impoverished class of Iran and a former popular president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also running for the presidency. He was the president of Iran during 2005-2013.Raisis’ death might pave the way for Mojtoba, son of the current supreme leader, to succeed Khamenei. However, it will not be easy for him since it goes against the revolution ideology. Other candidates are, Alireza Zakani, mayor of Tehran, and Es’haq Jahangiri, former vice president and a reformist is also set to run for the elections.

Due to the lack of public confidence in the regime, there is a fear that the public may find the election neither open, fair, or free. It will be tough to conduct the elections. Repression might increase in this period. The government might strictly control social and political activities in the country. The sudden election will steer attention away from other important matters such as its heated confrontation with Israel. This incident might empower Israel to put pressure on Iran on its nuclear program. Israel or other rivals of Iran might take this opportunity to stage an attack on Iran. This might increase vulnerability inside the country. The regime will also be engulfed in a succession battle. 

Even though the people of Iran are celebrating the death of Raisi due to his brutal enforcement of policies. However, the duo of Raisi and Amirabdollahian was a successful team that guided Iran’s’ foreign policy into a combative stance as well as standing up against the West. Raisi’s death is a setback for Iran, albeit temporary but it is equally important to see who the final candidates will be and who will emerge as victorious, and how assertive, loyal, conservative, and supportive of the current direction of the Islamic Republic he will be.

Nuzhat Tabassum is a Research Intern at CGS