Home Asia Iran Presidential Polls: Khamenei Protege Saeed Jalili Faces Moderate Massoud Pezeshkian In...

Iran Presidential Polls: Khamenei Protege Saeed Jalili Faces Moderate Massoud Pezeshkian In Runoff

The final showdown is between Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s protege and a low-profile moderate. Neither of the two could get 50% of the total votes polled in the first round to win the election – reason why Iran will see a runoff on the 5th of July. One-time chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili is up against the only moderate of this election – Massoud Pezeshkian.

The death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash in May necessitated these elections.

In an election where even the candidates were pre-screened by a body of clerics, Massoud Pezeshkian got more votes than Saeed Jalili, who is a zealous idealogue loyal to Iran’s supreme leader. The two finalists faced-off in a televised debate on July 1 ahead of the runoff to share their views on foreign policy and the economy. “It is wrong to think that everything is (everything depends on) these 3 powers (America and the west) , and if they didn’t come(to negotiate) it will not work (the situation of Iran will not be better if we can not negotiate with west),” said Saeed Jalili in the debate. “The spokesman of the foreign ministry of America has said himself that they have endured a great failure with this (imposing sanctions) but (apparently) we say no it was not a failure for them and (the American side) was the one who did not want their plan to work out.”

Jalili is a strong anti-Westerner and prefers to stick to the rigid outlook hardliners have held to solve Iran’s social, political and economic problems. Pezeshkian has backed women’s rights, wants more social freedoms, economic reform and cautious detente with the West. During the debate Pezeshkian said, “If we want to grow and improve in the world, the better connections we have, the better we can do. We will start with our neighbours then go as far as we can.”

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But the biggest problem for both, maybe even more so for Pezeshkian, is the apathy of voters. 60 percent of voters stayed away from the elections on the 28th of June. That’s lower than the turnout seen in the parliamentary election held in March and much lower than the 49% turnout of 2021 when Ebrahim Raisi was elected. Critics also see this as a form of protest and a message of no confidence in the Islamic Republic.

In Iran, power ultimately rests with the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei but the President can influence the tone of Iran’s foreign policy.

Insiders and analysts say 85 year old Khamenei wants a president who is strongly loyal.
This will not only ensure the smooth day-to-day functioning of the government but also provide stability as the Supreme Leader plans his eventual succession.