Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi has died in office. What happens now?

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun6,2024
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister in mountainous terrain and icy weather in the country’s north.

Search teams located the wreckage in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province on Monday. Raisi and foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian were travelling back from neighbouring Azerbaijan in one of three helicopters as part of a convoy when their aircraft crashed on Sunday.

The other two aircraft had reached their destination safely.

Interior minister Ahmad Vahidi earlier said the helicopter “made a hard landing” in bad weather and that it was “difficult to establish communication” with the aircraft.

A group of men stand together near an Iranian flag.

Ebrahim Raisi (centre), in one of the last images taken of him, on the site of a dam at the Aras River at the Iran and Azerbaijan shared border in northwest Iran, before his helicopter crashed in Iranian territory. Credit: EPA

So what happens next, and what does it mean for Iran with such high officials now confirmed dead?

Who is Ebrahim Raisi?

Raisi has been president since 2021 when he succeeded the moderate Hassan Rouhani. Since taking office he has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.
To his critics, he is known as the “Butcher of Tehran”, after his involvement as a young prosecutor sitting on a panel that oversaw the execution of hundreds of political prisoners in the Iranian capital in 1988.

“Although it will be a tight competition, I think President Raisi has more blood on his hands than any other official of the Islamic Republic,” said Arash Azizi, a political analyst at the Center for Middle East and Global Order.

President Raisi has more blood on his hands than any other official.

Arash Azizi

What happens if an Iranian president dies in office?

An election for a new president must be called within 50 days.

A council consisting of the first vice president, the speaker of parliament and the head of the judiciary must arrange an election for a new president within a maximum period of 50 days.

If a president dies in office, the first vice president takes over, with the confirmation of the supreme leader, who has the final say in all matters of state, according to article 131 of the Islamic Republic’s constitution. Iran’s current first vice president is Mohammad Mokhber.

Raisi was elected president in 2021 and, under the current timetable, presidential elections are due to take place in 2025.

What would Raisi’s death mean for Iran?

Raisi’s absence in such a vital time of increasing public dissatisfaction would be consequential for the Iranian government, said Alam Saleh, senior lecturer in politics and international relations at the Australian National University.
“People are quite unhappy with the regime’s both internal and external policies,” he told SBS News.

“His absence would be definitely seen … when the regime needs him badly.”

A map of northern Iran

Rescue teams fought blizzards and difficult terrain through the night to reach the wreckage in East Azerbaijan province in the early hours of Monday. Credit: SBS

Many had seen Raisi as a strong contender to succeed Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has endorsed Raisi’s main policies.

It’s likely now that hardliners are already vying for Raisi’s job, Saleh said.

“There is a deep division between the hardliners definitely — the next presidential election would be quite difficult for the regime.”

The next presidential election would be quite difficult for the regime.

Alam Saleh

A power struggle may already be in the works, according to Azizi.
“We all expected a ferocious struggle for power to begin after Khamenei dies. It might have already begun with this incident,” Azizi said.

Khamenei, who holds ultimate power with a final say on foreign policy and Iran’s nuclear program, had earlier sought to reassure Iranians, saying there would be no disruption to state affairs.

What happens if foul play is proven?

Iran’s state media had earlier described the incident as an accident, citing icy conditions and heavy fog in the area, while images from the site showed the aircraft slammed into a mountain peak.

Azizi, writing in The Atlantic, said the incident might very well have been an accident.

Two men speaking near a dam

In this photo released by the Iranian Presidency Office, President Ebrahim Raisi (left) speaks with his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev. Hours later, Raisi’s helicopter would crash in Iranian territory. Credit: AP

“Iran doesn’t seem like a country in which presidents die by accident. But it also is a country in which aircraft crash, due to the sorry state of infrastructure in the internationally isolated Islamic Republic.”

Saleh said it could have been an accident due to bad weather, or technical error or mistakes that led to the crash.

But another point of speculation is if some foreign country or foreign actors had played a role.
Israel has denied involvement, with an anonymous Israeli official telling Reuters: “It wasn’t us.”
“Israel is always accused of assassination inside Iran and they have successfully actually assassinated certain high-ranking officers inside the country in a very tragic way,” Saleh said.
“This is particularly important since the location of the incident was very close to the Republic of Azerbaijan, which has a very friendly relationship with Israel.”

But if it were proven to be a foreign actor, Saleh said Iran was unlikely to retaliate hard.

“Iran … is not ready for full-scale war with a country like Israel. . They have both worked hard to manage these tensions and successfully done so.
“So at this time, it would definitely be different because killing the head of states inside the country … would be considered as declaring war.”

Additional reporting by Reuters news agency

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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One thought on “Iran’s president Ebrahim Raisi has died in office. What happens now?”
  1. What are the potential implications for Iran after the death of President Raisi? Will there be any significant changes in the country’s policies?

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