Iran’s new reformist president promises ‘hand of friendship’

Reformist candidate, heart surgeon Massoud Pezeshkian, has won Iran’s presidential election, defeating a far-right rival. Said Djalili In a runoff vote.

Iran’s election authority announced on Saturday that Pezeshkian, a former health minister, had won 53.7 percent of the vote, while Jalili, a former top government nuclear negotiator, won 44.3 percent.

State television showed footage of supporters honking car horns to celebrate the victory of the 69-year-old Pezeshkian in the early hours of the morning.

“We extend the hand of friendship to everyone,” Pezeshkian said in his maiden speech, stressing that he would work with political opponents “for the development of the country.”

Jalili did not immediately comment on the election results.

Pezeshkian ran a low-key campaign seeking to restore trust between his government and an Iranian people who have become disillusioned with politics after failed reforms, political repression and an economic crisis.

But given Iran’s complex political landscape and powerful interest groups, it’s unclear how much change Pezeshkian can make.

But his victory and low voter turnout appear to signal the dissatisfaction many Iranians feel with their leaders.

About 61 million people had the right to vote to choose their successor. President Ebrahim RaisiHe died in a helicopter crash in May.

Neither candidate won a majority in the first round of voting on June 28, so Pezeshkian and Jalili will face off in a runoff election on Friday.

Polling stations were scheduled to close at 6 p.m. on Friday. As expected, authorities allowed polling stations in many places to extend their opening hours, but turnout still remained at about 49.8 percent, according to election officials. Turnout in the first round of voting last week was the lowest ever at 40 percent.

Conservative Reformer

Pezeshkian was a trained cardiac surgeon from northwestern Iran who served in the military during the Gulf War and practiced medicine in the city of Tabriz for many years.

Mr Heng lost his wife and one of his sons in a car accident in the early 1990s, and would often show up to election rallies with his daughter and grandson.

He served as Minister of Health during former President Mohamed Khatami’s second term from 2001 to 2005.

In the televised debate, Pezechkian described himself as a conservative politician who believes reforms are needed.

Despite his moderate rhetoric, he still professes loyalty to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Like many reformist politicians, Pezechkian wants better ties with the West.

She also criticized Iran’s strict headscarf requirements for women and campaigned for the middle class vote, saying she opposed internet censorship.

But critics say such reforms will be difficult to implement because of the hardline majority in parliament.

Public dissatisfaction grows

The Guardian Council, a powerful Islamic watchdog body that vets candidates, authorized only six candidates to stand in the election out of a total of 80.

Two of the six later withdrew, leaving only the three conservatives and moderate candidate Pezeshkian, a staunch supporter of the Islamic Republic’s top brass.

The president is only the number two in Iran’s power structure, as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei functions as head of state and has final say on all strategic matters. He is also the commander-in-chief of the Iranian armed forces.

The election comes amid a deep economic crisis, tensions with Western and regional powers and growing public discontent, especially among young people, with the way state power is being exercised.

But many Iranians, especially young people, have lost faith in the possibility of major political change in the country.

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