Iranians elect reformist president, anticipating new measures to navigate challenges

(Xinhua) 08:12, July 08, 2024

TEHRAN, July 7 (Xinhua) -- Iran's reformist candidate Masoud Pezeshkian on Saturday won the 14th presidential election in Iran, succeeding late President Ebrahim Raisi to become the ninth president of the country.

According to Iran's Election Headquarters Spokesperson Mohsen Eslami, Pezeshkian, also former health minister, secured 16,384,403 votes, more than 53 percent of the total, whereas principlist Saeed Jalili, Iran's former chief nuclear negotiator, garnered 13,538,179 votes, more than 44 percent of the total.

As Pezeshkian rises to power, the Iranian people hope the new government can mitigate the domestic economic crisis, address escalating tensions with Israel, and promote prosperity and stability by enhancing ties with other countries.

Presidential candidate Masoud Pezeshkian, Iran's former health minister, attends an electoral campaign in Tehran, Iran, July 3, 2024. (Xinhua/Shadati)


Pezeshkian and Jalili squared off in the runoff on Friday as neither candidate garnered the majority of votes required to win the presidency in the first round.

Voting for Iran's presidential runoff came to an end at midnight Friday after being extended for three times or six hours from the scheduled closing time.

According to the Iranian authorities, the final turnout for the runoff election stood at 49.8 percent, with over 30.5 million of the 61 million eligible voters casting their ballots. The turnout exceeded that of the first round and the figures from Iran's 2021 presidential election.

In an address to reporters following the announcement of the election winner, Iran's Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi hailed the Iranian people for their participation in the election.

Pezeshkian said "We will extend the hand of friendship to everyone; we are all people of this country and should utilize everyone's efforts for the nation's progress," reported Iran's Press TV.

The 14th presidential election, originally scheduled for 2025, was brought forward due to the unexpected death of Raisi in a helicopter crash on May 19. With Pezeshkian's victory, a new four-year term will start.

Presidential candidate Masoud Pezeshkian (C), Iran's former health minister, casts his ballot for Iran's 14th presidential election at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, June 28, 2024. (Xinhua)


Pezeshkian, 69, is a cardiac surgeon and a lawmaker in the country's parliament. He was the parliament's first deputy speaker from 2016 to 2020 and served as health minister in the government of former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami between 2001 and 2005.

He ran for president in 2013, but withdrew, and his second bid for the presidency in 2021 did not meet the qualification criteria.

Throughout the election process, Pezeshkian has presented himself as a reformist.

During his campaign, he advocated for social and economic reforms and promoted engagement with major countries regarding Iran's nuclear program to lift the sanctions that have severely impacted the economy.

"Do we want to solve our problems with the world or not? I believe we must get out of the deadlock to solve the country's problems," he said at a presidential debate ahead of the second round of voting.

"I consider sanctions a detriment to the country. My foreign policy aims to normalize relations with the world," he added.

He stressed the need to expand cooperation and ties with regional countries to promote domestic economic development.

"We need to first interact with regional countries for growth and prosperity, and then with other countries across the world," he said.

Hamidreza Gholamzadeh, a political commentator, said Pezeshkian's proposal to return to the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement to lift sanctions has won the support of middle-class voters in big cities.

As an advocate of ethnic rights, Pezeshkian campaigned to reach out to Iran's many ethnic groups, burnishing his image among Iran's minorities.

"I will extend the hand of friendship to everyone and try to involve everyone in the country's development," Pezeshkian said.

A voter casts her ballot at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, July 5, 2024. (Xinhua/Shadati)


Hours after being announced as the winner, Pezeshkian told his supporters at Imam Khomeini's mausoleum in Tehran that helping the country pass through the "bottlenecks, challenges and crises" would be a "big test" ahead.

During his speech, he acknowledged the challenging circumstances facing his administration and expressed a commitment to working with the Iranian parliament to reduce tensions and navigate through difficulties.

He also expressed his intention to promote dialogue, unity, and national consensus within the country's establishment and governance to address societal issues in economic, social, cultural and political spheres.

Many experts agree that economic downturns, U.S.-led sanctions and escalating regional tensions are among the most pressing challenges.

"Economy-related issues, including trade and high inflation, and the removal of the sanctions" are among the major woes faced by the new government," Hassan Beheshtipour, a Tehran-based Iranian international affairs analyst, told Xinhua.

According to Statista, Iran's inflation rate, which has long stood above 30 percent, has risen to over 40 percent after the outbreak of the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

Besides soaring food prices, Iranians have been grappling with the devaluation of the rial compounded by Iran-Israel tensions and a high unemployment rate, which reached 8.9 percent in 2023, Statista showed.

Mostafa Khoshcheshm, another Iranian international affairs expert, said that "the confrontation between the resistance front and Israel is among the top challenges, which will lead to great geopolitical changes in the region."

Despite challenges, Iranian citizens hope the reformist president-elect could promote economic prosperity and address the country's increasing tensions with Israel and Western powers.

Masoud Hosseini, 53, said he expected Pezeshkian to deliver on his campaign pledges "especially in areas such as improving the people's livelihoods."

"We expect the inflation to be curbed and the housing sector to improve," said Maryam, a 50-year-old mother of three, expressing her hope that the new president would enhance Iran's ties with other countries to safeguard national interests.

The new administration should help ensure peace and calm in the region, Manouchehr Rahiminejad, 58, told Xinhua. However, he noted he did not expect the president-elect to "do a miracle and resolve the country's problems in one or two years."

"No matter who is elected, he should be given sufficient time to solve the problems," he said.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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