Iran’s regime facing crisis as only moderate candidate on ballot takes lead in polls

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun28,2024

The Iranian regime may have shot itself in the foot as the only moderate presidential candidate took a surprise lead in the polls hours before the beginning of the elections.

Masoud Pezeshkian, a surgeon with reformist leanings, topped a survey released on Thursday by Iran‘s government-funded ISPA with 33.1 per cent of the vote.

This surge recorded just hours before the polling stations opened on Friday prompted panic among hardliners, with two ultra-conservative candidates dropping out of the race to consolidate the man favoured by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Hardliner and former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili obtained 28.8 percent of the support in the survey, while a former commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC), Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, got 19.1 percent.

Upon pulling out of the race, Tehran Mayor Alireza Zakani urged Mr Jalili and Mr Ghalibaf to unite behind a single campaign to improve their chances.

Mr Pezeshkian, a former health minister, has only very lukewarm reformist credentials and has previously pledged to follow Ayatollah Khamenei’s policies should he be elected.

Yet, in 2009 he dared disrupt parliament with a speech against the use of force on demonstrators showcased in the country as people took to the streets to voice their anger at the election of hardliners Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Moreover, two years ago he criticised the Iranian establishment in light of the death in hospital under suspicious circumstances of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been arrested by the morality police for not wearing her hijab properly.

In light of the survey, Tehran may be either forced to rig the elections or accept the possibility of having as president an unwelcomed candidate.

Mr Pezeshkian was the only reform-leaning candidate escaping the purge of the electoral candidate list done by the regime in the run-up to the elections, which resulted in 74 people being disqualified.

His election would come at a troubled time for Iran, which under the presidency of Ebrahim Raisi saw personal freedoms and women’s rights being further suppressed, while international tensions with the US and Israel ramped up.

Yet, IRGC officials claimed to the Telegraph that the regime approved Mr Pezeshkian’s candidacy only to ensure that liberals “feel they are in the game” and secure a higher turnout. Jason Brodsky, policy director of the advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran, also said: “There is an attempt by the regime to utilise him in a way that will generate turnout and try to legitimise an illegitimate election.”

More than 61.5 million Iranians aged over 18 are eligible to vote on Friday – but many are expected to boycott the election as they believe it will be manipulated by the regime.

The vote was triggered by a helicopter crash in mid-May which claimed the life of Mr Raisi.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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