Analysis: Iran’s presidential contest is selection, not election

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Analysis: Iran’s presidential contest is selection, not election

Senior Middle East analyst Jason M. Brodsky looks at the Islamic Republic's possible next leader, a protégé of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Ebrahim Raisi
Ebrahim Raisi

Iran’s presidential contest on Friday is more selection than election. A combination of mass disqualifications and voter apathy have plagued this poll. The Iranian establishment has made this an uncompetitive race to control the outcome as the next president will possibly be the 82-year-old supreme leader’s last. In terms of foreign policy, particularly Israel, this election will not change the Islamic Republic’s fundamental enmity towards the Jewish state.

The frontrunner, Chief Justice Ebrahim Raisi, is a loyal protégé of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He has risen through the ranks of the judiciary and has presided over egregious human rights abuses as a member of a death commission in 1988, which greenlighted the executions of thousands of political prisoners.

Despite his membership on the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) since 2019, Raisi lacks experience on the world stage. He has made a few trips to countries like Iraq and Lebanon – core theatres for Iran’s Axis of Resistance – but does not have the level of exposure to the international community that Iran’s incumbent president, Hassan Rouhani, had prior to his election.

Jason M. Brodsky is senior Middle East analyst

There are other candidates, but policy towards Israel will likely remain unchanged regardless of who wins, because such decisions are driven by Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp, not by the president. Khamenei will remain the constitutional commander-in-chief and regime preservation depends on the Islamic Republic’s anti-Zionist character. Provision of manpower, money, and materiel to Iran’s proxies and partners will continue, a trend that may ever accelerate should the US rejoin the Iran nuclear deal. The election of Raisi could help Israel better mobilise the international community against Tehran, given his bloodstained record.

  • Jason M. Brodsky is senior Middle East analyst
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