Centrist Masoud Pezeshkian will be Iran’s next president

Pezeshkian acknowledges ‘difficult path ahead’ after winning run-off election with 53.7 percent of the vote.

Iran’s president-elect Masoud Pezeshkian has promised to serve all Iranians in his first public address after being declared the winner of an election run-off against his hardline rival Saeed Jalili.

Speaking from the Iranian capital Tehran on Saturday, Pezeshkian said his victory will “usher in a new chapter” for the country.

“We are ahead of a big trial, a trial of hardships and challenges, simply to provide a prosperous life to our people,” he said during brief remarks at the mausoleum of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Pezeshkian also hailed the relatively high turnout in Friday’s polls, promising to listen to the voices of the Iranian people and “fulfil all the promises” he made.

Seen as a centrist and reform-minded candidate, Pezeshkian secured nearly 16.4 million of the more than 30 million votes cast, ahead of Jalili who received some 13.5 million, according to the official count.

“By gaining [the] majority of the votes cast on Friday, Pezeshkian has become Iran’s next president,” the Ministry of Interior said in a statement.

Shortly after the announcement, Jalili conceded defeat, saying anybody elected by the people must be respected.

“Not only should he be respected, but now we must use all our strength and help him move forward with strength,” he told state television.

There were scenes of celebration after the results were declared, with small groups of Pezeshkian supporters taking to the streets.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was among several world leaders to congratulate Pezeshkian, but Western leaders were yet to respond.

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(Al Jazeera)

 

‘A bridge’

Participation in the run-off was 49.8 percent in the tight race between Pezeshkian, the sole moderate in an original field of four candidates who has pledged to open Iran to the world, and the former nuclear negotiator Jalili, a staunch advocate of deepening Iran’s ties with Russia and China.

The vote on Friday followed a June 28 ballot with an historically low turnout, when more than 60 percent of Iranian voters abstained from the snap election for a successor to Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash in May.

In last week’s election, Pezeshkian received about 42.5 percent of votes and Jalili some 38.7 percent.

Reporting from Tehran on Saturday, Al Jazeera’s Resul Serdar noted that about 50 percent of Iranians did not vote as some didn’t “have faith that the election will bring any change, whether the winner is a conservative or a reformist”.

Others boycotted the election, Serdar said. “This is a silent protest.”

Pezeshkian is expected to assume his duties within 30 days. As he is still a member of parliament from Tabriz, the body will first vote on his resignation.

The country’s ninth elected president will next have to be officially endorsed in a ceremony by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, after which he will be sworn in at the Parliament.

Pezeshkian repeatedly praised Khamenei during his speech on Saturday in what Al Jazeera’s Serdar said appeared to underscore that the president-elect is seeking to avoid a rift with Iran’s political establishment.

“He once again repeated that he is not the president only for the reformists but also for every Iranian who did not vote for him,” he said. “That is very important, because Iran socially is quite a divided country now and that fragility is a great concern for the political establishment.

“So, now he’s promising to be a bridge between the state and the people,” Serdar added.

Challenges ahead

Political analysts said Pezeshkian’s triumph might see the promotion of a pragmatic foreign policy, ease tensions over the now-stalled negotiations with major world powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal and improve prospects for social liberalisation in Iran.

Both presidential candidates had promised to revive the flagging economy, beset by mismanagement and sanctions reimposed since 2018 after then-United States President Donald Trump unilaterally ditched the nuclear deal.

Tohid Asadi, a professor at Tehran University, told Al Jazeera that Pezeshkian’s victory showed that many Iranians are interested in “a shift in domestic and foreign policies”.

Still, Asadi explained that Iranian politics are “a highly dynamic and complex mechanism” in which the president is only one actor influencing decisions.

On the nuclear deal, he said, “the ball is going to be in the court of the United States and the West” in rebuilding trust among Iran’s political establishment.

Mostafa Khoshcheshm, a Tehran-based analyst and professor at Fars Media Faculty, said he was not expecting strategic changes to Iran’s foreign policy.

The foreign policy file, he explained, “is decided by the entire establishment, mostly at the Supreme National Security Council, where [there are] representatives of the government as well as the armed forces, the Iranian supreme leader and the Parliament”.

Much would also depend on the outcome of the US presidential election in November, which will again pit incumbent Joe Biden against Trump.

“If Donald Trump comes into office, I don’t really expect any kind of change, any talks between the two sides, or any change in the present course of actions,” Khoshcheshm told Al Jazeera.

In the end, Pezeshkian will be in charge of applying state policy outlined by Khamenei, who wields ultimate authority in the country.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies