Moderate Masoud Pezeshkian Wins Iranian Presidency, Promises Change

Moderate Masoud Pezeshkian Wins Iranian Presidency, Promises Change

Moderate politician Masoud Pezeshkian, who defeated hardline former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili in Iran's presidential election, urged citizens to support him on the "difficult road ahead" after his victory. Pezeshkian, a 69-year-old cardiac surgeon, has committed to a pragmatic foreign policy, reducing tensions over stalled negotiations to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, and promoting social liberalization and political pluralism. Despite his promises, many Iranians doubt his ability to deliver, given that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei holds ultimate authority in the country.

In a post on the social media platform X, Pezeshkian addressed the nation: "Dear people of Iran, the election is over, and this is just the beginning of our working together. A difficult road is ahead. It can only be smooth with your cooperation, empathy, and trust. I extend my hand to you and swear on my honor that I will not abandon you on this path. Do not abandon me."

The turnout for Friday's vote was nearly 50%, following a historically low turnout of over 60% abstaining in the first round on June 28. The election was prompted by the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash in May. Khamenei, commending the high turnout, congratulated Pezeshkian and advised him to continue Raisi's policies.

Pezeshkian secured his win with significant support from the urban middle class and youth, who have been disillusioned by years of strict security crackdowns. Social media footage showed his supporters celebrating in the streets across various cities and towns, with motorists honking their horns in approval.

Pezeshkian's victory has raised hopes for improved relations with the West, potentially easing the nuclear dispute with major powers. His election comes amid increasing regional tensions due to conflicts involving Israel and Iranian allies Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, alongside heightened Western pressure over Iran's nuclear advancements.

While the president cannot make major policy changes regarding Iran's nuclear program or support for militia groups in the Middle East—decisions controlled by Khamenei—the president can influence the tone of Iran's policies and play a role in choosing Khamenei's successor, now 85.

Supported by Iran's reformist camp, led by former President Mohammad Khatami, Pezeshkian remains loyal to Iran's theocratic rule and does not intend to challenge the powerful security forces and clerical leadership. Foreign leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabia's King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, sent their congratulations to Pezeshkian on his victory.

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