Masoud Pezeshkian, the relatively moderate of the two finalists was declared the ninth president of Iran after securing 53.6 percent of the votes in the July 5 runoff against ultra hardliner Saeed Jalili with 44.3 percent.

Pezeshkian who considers himself an independent was backed by the Reform Front in the snap elections of June 28 that followed the death of hardliner President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash on May 19.

The pro-reform candidate secured over 7 million votes more than the first round and nearly 3 million votes more than his ultra-hardliner rival, according to official figures announced by the government.

The first round of the elections in which the turnout dropped to a record low of around 40 percent was widely boycotted by various political groups, activists, and disillusioned Iranians.

According to official figures, which many in the opposition are challenging, turnout in Friday’s runoff election increased by about ten percent to 49.8 percent. In Iran's tightly government-controlled electoral process, these figures cannot be independently verified.

The new president made many promises during his campaign, but as was the case with other candidates, detailed plans were lacking.

Pezeshkian advocates engagement in constructive talks with Western powers to revive the JCPOA nuclear deal and to lift the sanctions that he says have crippled the Iranian economy since the withdrawal of the United States from the agreement in 2018. He has not offered any concrete plans for such a move which requires the approval of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

He has also insisted that Iran needs to accede to international conventions prescribed by the anti-money laundering Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to allow international banking ties. Iran has been on FATF’s blacklist since February 2020.

Former Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif who campaigned for Pezeshkian relentlessly in the past few weeks is likely to be chosen for a senior position in his cabinet. The position of foreign minister is said to have been reserved for Zarif’s former deputy and nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi.

Pezeshkian said during campaign debates that lower-income and vulnerable Iranians would not pay taxes if he won the elections. He has also vowed free healthcare for the lower income and vulnerable families.

Ali Tayebnia, an economist and former minister of commerce in the government of Hassan Rouhani (2013-1017), is widely believed to be at the helm of Pezeshkian’s economic team. Tayebnia is believed to be a support of free market economy, as Iran suffers from overwhelming government control and ownership.

The 70-year-old heart surgeon, lawmaker and first deputy speaker of parliament (2016 – 2020), and veteran of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) has on various occasions admitted to helping impose the hijab on women in the early years of the Islamic Republic but has promised voters to put an end to the violent enforcement of the Islamic dress code by morality police enforcers.

Pezeshkian is known for his fiery speeches in the parliament against the government’s bloody crackdown on protesters in 2009.

In a tweet a day after Amini’s death, Pezeshkian strongly criticized the violence against her and said “arresting a girl for her hijab and handing her corpse to her family” was unacceptable in the Islamic Republic and shameful. He later said he had been barred by the Guardian Council from standing in the March 2024 parliamentary elections due to his protest to Amini’s killing.

He has also been critical of the house arrest of the leaders of the Green Movement who have been detained in their residences since 2011.

Pezeshkian had served as health minister under the reformist Mohammad Khatami from 2001 to 2005. Khatami who abstained from voting in the parliamentary elections of March in protest to the extensive disqualification of non-hardliners supported Pezeshkian and voted for him.

Pezeshkian’s additional votes in the runoff elections probably came from some of those who had boycotted the first round as well as some of the supporters of the Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf, who lost in the first round.

Pezeshkian’s approval to run by the ultra-hardline election watchdog, the Guardian Council, came as a surprise. He had previously registered for the presidency in 2013 but withdrew and registered again in 2020, only to be disqualified by the Guardian Council.

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