Who is Iran’s new president, Masoud Pezeshkian, and what has he promised?

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jul7,2024
Masoud Pezeshkian, Iran’s only reformist candidate in the latest presidential election, has risen from relative obscurity to become the ninth president of the Islamic Republic.
Pezeshkian, a 69-year-old heart surgeon, won around 53.6 per cent of the vote in a .
In the first round of Iran’s snap elections on 28 June, Pezeshkian led the polls against three other conservative figures, stunning supporters and rivals alike.
Pezeshkian’s victory has raised the hopes of Iran’s reformists after years of dominance by the conservative and ultraconservative camps.
He will replace late ultraconservative president Ebrahim Raisi who .
“The difficult path ahead will not be smooth except with your companionship, empathy, and trust. I extend my hand to you,” Pezeshkian said in a post on social media platform X.

In the lead-up to the elections, Iran’s main reformist coalition threw its weight behind Pezeshkian, with former presidents Mohammad Khatami and the moderate Hassan Rouhani declaring support for his bid.

Who is Masoud Pezeshkian?

Pezeshkian was born in 1954 to an Iranian father of Turkic origin and a Kurdish mother in the city of Mahabad in the northwestern province of West Azerbaijan.
He has represented Tabriz in Iran’s parliament since 2008, served as health minister in Khatami’s government, and supervised sending medical teams to the war front during the Iran-Iraq conflict between 1980 and 1988.

In 1993, Pezeshkian lost his wife and one of his children in a car accident. He never remarried and raised his remaining three children — two sons and a daughter — alone.

What issues has Pezeshkian campaigned on?

Pezeshkian takes over the presidency amid heightened regional tensions over the Gaza war, a dispute with the West over Iran’s nuclear program and domestic discontent over the state of Iran’s sanctions-hit economy.

While campaigning, Pezeshkian called for “constructive relations” with Western countries to “get Iran out of its isolation”.

A man sitting on a black leather chair with a blue background behind him.

Pezeshkian’s main rival in the election was the ultraconservative Saeed Jalil. Source: Getty / NurPhoto

He pledged to try to revive a 2015 nuclear deal with the United States and other powers, which imposed curbs on Iran’s nuclear activity in return for sanctions relief.

The deal collapsed in 2018 after Washington withdrew from it.
Within Iran, he has vowed to ease long-standing internet restrictions.
In 2022, he publicly criticised the Raisi government over its handling of the , who had been arrested for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code for women.

In recent campaigning, he maintained his stance, criticising the enforcement of mandatory hijab laws which require women to cover their head and neck in public since shortly after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

“We oppose any violent and inhumane behaviour towards anyone, notably our sisters and daughters, and we will not allow these actions to happen,” he said.
Pezeshkian also pledged to involve more women and ethnic minorities such as Kurds and Baluchis in his government.
He has also promised to reduce inflation, now hovering at around 40 per cent, which he says has “crushed the nation’s back” in recent years.

In one debate with Jalili, Pezeshkian estimated that Iran needs $200 billion in foreign investment, which he said could only be provided by mending ties across the world.

What are his powers?

Unlike in many countries, Iran’s president is not head of state, and the ultimate authority rests with the supreme leader — a post held by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for 35 years.
As president, Pezeshkian will hold the second-highest ranking position and will influence both domestic and foreign policy.

Setting economic policy will be within his powers.

A man speaking into microphones in front of a row of Iranian flags.

Iran’s president is not its head of state, and ultimate authority rests with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Source: AAP / Vahid Salemi/AP

However, he will have limited power over the police, and virtually none over the army and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the military’s ideological arm.

The police, army and IRGC all answer directly to the supreme leader.

Pezeshkian will be tasked with implementing state policies outlined by Khamenei.

What challenges does he face?

Maziar Khosravi, a political analyst and journalist, said the new president “did not promise an immediate resolution to problems” in Iran.
Analysts say Pezeshkian will face serious challenges because conservatives still dominate state institutions.

One such institution is parliament, which was elected in March and is dominated by conservatives and ultraconservatives.

A large group of people standing outside a building in queue. There is a blue fence in front of the buildling.

Iran’s federal elections faced a historic low voter turnout, at around 40 per cent, something critics of Iran’s clerical rule said had demonstrated that the system’s legitimacy had eroded. Source: AAP / Stringer/EPA

Parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, who ran in the first round of the election, backed Jalili in the runoff.

Two other ultraconservatives who dropped out a day before the first round also backed Jalili.
“Dealing with the issue of hijab or any other ideological matter is out of the hands of the president,” political commentator Mossadegh Mossadeghpoor said, noting that this is a religious matter.

Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group says Pezeshkian will face an uphill battle to secure “social and cultural rights at home and diplomatic engagement abroad”.

On the nuclear issue, Mossadeghpoor said Pezeshkian may be able to “resolve it if it is the system’s will”.
Diplomatic efforts to revive the 2015 deal with Washington and Europe have faltered over the years.

“No one should expect Iran’s approach to foreign policy to fundamentally change,” said Khosravi.

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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