When Ibrahim Rice first challenged the presidency of Iran in 2017, the super-conservative mentality failed miserably, failing to win over aspiring voters who had hoped to open the country to the republic’s nuclear deal.
Four years later, in 2015, Iran signed the collapse of an agreement with world powers, the economic crisis fueled by US sanctions, disappointed voters, and the regime’s determination to take a tough position paved the way for it. election victory with 62% of the vote.
But for many inside and outside the country, his victory is a trace of a Pyrrhic victory.
More than half of voters chose not to vote, which reformers described as a rare act of civil disobedience. The turnout was 48.8 percent, the lowest in the history of the Islamic Republic, with 3.7 million people choosing to spoil the ballots, more than voting for one of Rice’s rivals.
“The message of the election is that the dissident faction is much larger than Raisi’s supporters,” said reform activist Hossein Yazdi.
Many who were far from the polls thought the result came after authorities barred leading reformist candidates from running. It was widely believed that the head of the judiciary, Raisi, had backed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in rigid elections to regain control of all major branches of government for the first time in almost a decade.
Analysts say Rice’s victory has boosted his chances of replacing 82-year-old Khamenei as supreme leader at the time of his death. But only if he can focus on the challenges he has inherited: a corrupt virus-stricken economy, a society that is vulnerable to unrest.
His supporters hope he can put an end to the factional brawl that defiled the regime during President Hassan Rouhani’s second and final term, which ends in August. Khamenei’s priorities are unity in a theocratic system with competing centers of power և smooth succession. These goals have become more urgent as the country has gone through its most tumultuous period since the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
“One nation, one team, one goal,” was one of Raisi’s campaign slogans.
“I believe in Rice because he is 100 percent in line with the leadership,” said one regime official. “The parliament, the leadership, the judicial system. They will all form a queue, they will perform better. ”
The catalyst for Iran’s recent deterioration was Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the nuclear deal. He imposed suffocating sanctions on individuals in the republic, including Raisi, by stifling Iran’s ability to export oil and plunging it into recession.
The turmoil encouraged hardliners, shattered the dreams of the 24 million Iranians who voted for Rouhani in 2017, hoping the nuclear deal would help bring about change and prosperity.
Their disappointment played into Raisi’s hand. His conservative electorate listened to the calls of its leaders to vote while the reformers stayed at home.
So, although he won a technically crushing victory, he faces serious challenges without the strong popular mandate of his predecessors.
“Rice has entered a game he will lose. In the eyes of the public, right or wrong, his victory was predetermined, “said the reform analyst. “It makes people angry.”
Others fear that tough stances will seek to marginalize pro-democracy activists in the future.
“Undoubtedly, there will be pressure on pro-democracy people,” said activist Yazdi.
Raisi’s human rights stories have long been a concern. It now threatens to tarnish its credibility both at home and abroad as Tehran negotiates with world powers to reach an agreement to return the United States to a nuclear deal and lift sanctions.
President Biden has said he will rejoin the deal if Iran fully adheres to the deal. But the new administration will be led by a man whom the Trump administration has accused of controlling executions, “torture of prisoners and other inhumane treatment” when it imposed sanctions on Rice in 2019.
He is believed to have been involved in the execution of thousands of political prisoners when he was state attorney in the late 1980s. He did not comment on the report.
Born into a carefree family, Raisi rose to prominence five years ago when Khamenei appointed him guardian of the shrine of Imam Reza in his hometown of Mashhad, a powerful post overseeing Iran’s holiest site.
After Khamenei appointed him head of the judiciary, one of the main centers of the hard line, in 2019, he used that position to launch a crusade against corruption, which earned him honors, even among some of his critics. Others, however, saw the move as a resumption of his political ambitions.
During the election campaign, he offered some details of the policy, but said that domestic issues were a priority for him. He tried to address the Iranians who were in economic difficulties, sometimes referring to his own modest upbringing.
“Not only did I know poverty, but I experienced poverty,” he repeated.
He made only passing remarks on foreign policy; few expect significant changes, be it in hostile relations with the United States with Iran, support for regional militias, or the expansion of a missile program.
Unlike Rohani, Rice has had little obedience abroad, while Khamenei has made regional policy and major security decisions.
Analysts say he is likely to be less overtly radical than Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad, Iran’s last tough president. His first term was characterized by a costly, populist domestic policy of US “bombing disputes against Israel” that caused economic chaos.
But even the Conservatives admit that Raisi has a formidable mission ahead of him.
Raisi’s tenure is unlikely to be similar to Ahmadinejad’s Rohani’s tenure [chaotic last years]”- said conservative analyst Mohammad Mohajer. “Iran’s political ship is rocking a lot.”