Tehran, Iran – The head of the judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected next president of Iran at a critical time for the country. Who is the conservative leader and what are his positions?
Raisi, 60, who enjoys broad support from the conservative and radical revolutionary camp and its base, will remain chief justice until he succeeds incumbent moderate President Hassan Rouhani in early August, as he did not resign from his post to run for president.
Like the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the leader wears a black turban, which means he is a sayyid – a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.
Raisi is considered the likely successor to Khamenei, 82, upon his death.
Before the 1979 revolution
Raisi was born in Mashhad in northeastern Iran, a large city and a religious center for Shia Muslims as it houses the shrine of Imam Reza, the eighth Imam.
Growing up in a clerical family, Raisi received a religious education and began attending Qom seminary at the age of 15. There he studied with several prominent scholars, including Khamenei.
When his upbringing was brought up during the presidential debates, he denied having only six degrees of classical education, claiming that he has a doctorate in law in addition to his studies at the seminary.
When he entered Qom’s influential seminary just a few years before the 1979 revolution that brought about the Islamic Republic, many Iranians were unhappy with the governance of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who was ultimately deposed.
Raisi is said to have participated in some of the events that forced the shah into exile and set up the new clerical establishment headed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
After the revolution
After the revolution, Raisi joined the prosecutor’s office in Masjed Soleyman in southwest Iran. Over the next six years, he added to his experience as a prosecutor in several other jurisdictions.
A crucial development came when he moved to the Iranian capital, Tehran, in 1985 after being appointed deputy prosecutor.
Human rights organizations claim that three years later, just months after the grueling eight-year war between Iran and Iraq ended, he was part of a so-called “death commission.” Who oversaw the disappearance and secret executions of thousands of political prisoners.
Raisi will become the first Iranian president to be the target of U.S. sanctions, imposed in 2019, for his alleged role in mass executions and for cracking down on public protests.
Amnesty International called on the leader to face charges of crimes against humanity.
The leader continued to rise within the Iranian judicial system after Khamenei’s accession to the supreme leadership in 1989. He then served as Tehran’s prosecutor and then headed the Organization of General Inspectorate, then served as Deputy Chief Justice for a decade until 2014, during which time the 2009 Green Movement pro-democracy protests took place.
In 2006, while serving as Deputy Chief Justice, he was first elected from South Khorasan to the Assembly of Experts, a body responsible for choosing a replacement for the Supreme Leader in the event of death. . He still holds that role.
Raisi was promoted to Iran’s Attorney General in 2014 and remained in that post until 2016, when he rose through the ranks once again – albeit outside the judiciary this time – and was appointed by the Supreme Leader as the guardian of the Atan-e Quds. Razavi, a huge bonyade, or charitable trust, which manages the shrine of Imam Reza and all affiliated organizations.
In this position, Raisi controlled billions of dollars in assets and forged ties with the religious and business elite of Mashhad, Iran’s second largest city.
Raisi, who has two daughters, is also the son-in-law of Ahmad Alamolhoda, the longtime hard-line Mashhad Friday prayer leader, who has become known for his fiery ultraconservative speeches and highly controversial remarks and ideas.
In 2017, Raisi first ran for president and became the leading candidate against Rouhani, a moderate who championed engagement with the West and the 2015 Iran nuclear deal with world powers that have lifted multilateral sanctions in exchange for restrictions on the country’s nuclear program.
Raisi and his ally Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, who in 2020 became the speaker of a new hard-line parliament amid low turnout and wide disqualification of reformist candidates, lost the elections to Rouhani. Raisi, however, garnered just under 16 million votes, or 38%, in an election with a turnout of 73%.
After a short retirement, the Supreme Leader appointed him Chief Justice in 2019.
In this position, the leader tried to cement his image as a staunch opponent of corruption. He held public trials and prosecuted figures close to the government and the judiciary.
He also effectively launched his presidential campaign and visited almost all of Iran’s 32 provinces. During these visits, he often announced that he had brought a large factory back from the brink of bankruptcy, presenting himself as a champion of hard-working Iranians and boosting local businesses under US sanctions.
Raisi carried this theme into his 2021 campaign, in which he made limited promises as it was evident that none of the other candidates could pose a serious challenge to his presidency against a backdrop of poor economic conditions, low turnout and wide disqualification of reformist and moderate candidates.
During her tenure on the bench, the Signal messaging app was banned earlier this year after a surge in popularity, as was the Clubhouse voice chat app when it became massively popular in the run-up to the election.
All major social media and messaging apps are blocked in Iran except Instagram and WhatsApp.
Economy and nuclear agreement
Pressed by another candidate, Raisi briefly discussed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the nuclear deal that former US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned in 2018 is officially known.
While he had previously opposed the deal, he said this time around he would support it like any other state commitment, but form a “strong” government that will be able to deliver. steer in the right direction.
A sixth round of talks between Iran and world powers is underway in Vienna to restore the agreement, that, if successful, will lead to the lifting of US sanctions and the reduction of Iran’s nuclear program, as the country is now enriching uranium to 63%, its highest rate on record.
Even as the June 24 deadline for a temporary deal with the International Atomic Energy Organization to keep surveillance activities in Iran nears, negotiators have said the sixth round will not be the last. But it is hoped that the deal can be revived before Raisi takes office.
Meanwhile, Iran’s 83 million people suffer from soaring inflation and high unemployment as the government runs a sizable budget deficit and struggles to manage what has become the pandemic of Deadliest COVID-19 in the Middle East.
Raisi has pledged to fight inflation, create at least a million jobs a year, build new homes and dedicate special loans to first-time buyers who get married, in addition to ushering in a new era. financial transparency and the fight against corruption.
Hamed Mousavi, professor of political science at the University of Tehran, said the conservative narrative was that the Rouhani government’s mismanagement led to the current situation.
“So according to this account, if this mismanagement is corrected, the economy will be corrected, but I think many conservatives at least internally understand how important the sanctions are,” he told Al Jazeera. .
“I think it will come down to how flexible Raisi is in the negotiations. An important point is who will he appoint for the nuclear negations.
One of the choices is the die-hard Saeed Jalili, a former nuclear negotiator under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who was one of seven candidates approved in the 2021 race and has stepped down in favor of Raisi.
According to Natasha Lindstaedt, a researcher at the University of Essex, the likely effects of Raisi’s election on ties with the United States are uncertain.
“But the kind of rhetoric the Iranian president can utter sometimes affects the way the United States reacts,” she told Al Jazeera.
“I see Raisi in a way as the return of Ahmadinejad, a more populist and authoritarian president and it was a time when relations with the United States and Iran were really strained,” she said.