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Masoud Pezeshkian Wins Iran’s Presidential Election, Promising Moderate Reforms

Masoud Pezeshkian President of Iran

Iran has a new president. Masoud Pezeshkian has won Iran’s presidential election, securing 53% of the vote. Pezeshkian, a reformist, has pledged to bring moderation and change to the Iranian government. This victory marks the first time in two decades that a reformist will lead the Islamic Republic.

Born on September 29, 1954, in Mahabad, West Azerbaijan province, Iran, Pezeshkian was born to an Azerbaijani father and a Kurdish mother. His journey to the presidency is remarkable, considering that just four months ago, it was uncertain whether he would even be allowed to run for office. Hardliners had controlled all the centers of power, relegating other factions to the political sidelines.

Masoud Pezeshkian President of Iran

Pezeshkian's victory over his hardliner rival, Saeed Jalili, has rejuvenated the reformist camp. This group, initially amazed that Pezeshkian's candidacy was approved, now hopes to reshape the republic by reducing the influence of ideological conservatives and pushing through social and economic reforms. Pezeshkian’s win comes after the previous president, hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, died in a helicopter crash in May.

In his first public reaction to his victory, Pezeshkian emphasized the need for cooperation and trust from the public. He stated on X, “The difficult path ahead will not be smooth without your cooperation, empathy, and trust. I extend my hand to you and swear on my honor that I will not leave you alone on this path. Do not leave me alone.”

Masoud Pezeshkian President of Iran

Pezeshkian faces significant challenges as he takes office. Iran is grappling with a heavily sanctioned economy, a disillusioned population, and a political system where most power resides with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, and institutions like the Revolutionary Guard. During his campaign, Pezeshkian promised to re-engage with the US and European states to resolve Iran’s nuclear stand-off with the West and secure sanctions relief to boost the economy. He also pledged to relax social restrictions, such as online censorship and the harsh treatment of women who refuse to wear the hijab.

Saeed Laylaz, a pro-reform economist, described this moment as a turning point in Iran’s transition from tradition to modernity, with top leaders finally conceding that technocrats should run the government. However, Pezeshkian also portrayed himself as a loyalist to Khamenei, indicating he would not upset the status quo.

Elections in Iran

Pezeshkian has been a regime loyalist since the 1979 Islamic revolution. As a young doctor, he mobilized medical teams during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. Despite his radical past, this year on the campaign trail, he argued against the harassment of women for not covering their heads, referencing the public backlash from the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody in 2022. He also promised to end patrols by Iran’s notorious morality police.

Pezeshkian's personal life has also influenced his outlook. After losing his wife and a son in a car accident three decades ago, he raised his remaining children as a single parent. This experience shaped his campaign message, where he often spoke about loyalty and empathy.

Internationally, Pezeshkian’s election has implications for Iran's relations with other countries. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan congratulated Pezeshkian on his victory, emphasizing the importance of deepening Armenian-Iranian relations. This sentiment was echoed by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who stressed the significance of maintaining sensitive border issues and ensuring both countries' interests.

However, diplomats remain skeptical about how much influence Pezeshkian will have, given that key policies are determined by Khamenei and the Revolutionary Guard. One senior Western diplomat in Tehran noted that while Pezeshkian’s words are promising, action is needed to improve relations.

Pezeshkian’s ability to push through reforms will depend heavily on his relationship with Khamenei and his skill in navigating resistance from hardliners. Analysts suggest that his success will lie in not confronting Khamenei directly but instead fostering unity within the ruling system. The reformist camp hopes that by sidelining radicals, they can maintain political stability and prepare for the eventual succession to Khamenei, who is 85 years old.

As Pezeshkian prepares to be sworn in, the nation and the world will be watching to see if his promises of moderation and reform can bring about meaningful change in Iran.


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