Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, is taking power this week in a time of great challenges for the Islamic Republic, shaken by the recent protests over water and electricity shortages and preparing for more talks on reviving its nuclear deal with world powers. .
Raisi, a 60-year-old veteran of hardline politics and appointed successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, won in June with the lowest turnout in any presidential election since the theocratic revolution in 1979 and only after excluding his most serious opponents. out of the race.
After the election, he acknowledged that ‘public confidence in the country’s political elite has been weakened’, although he has suggested that outgoing centrist President Hassan Rouhani is to blame for this disillusionment. Rouhani signed the 2015 nuclear deal with the US and other major powers, only for then-US President Donald Trump to drop it in 2018 and impose sanctions again.
This waning confidence can be ‘restored’, Raisi said, by focusing on the home front rather than seeking foreign help. “Reform of the current situation is possible,” he said.
However, the new president may immediately face a new international battle after Israel accused Tehran on Sunday of involvement in the alleged Thursday night drone attack on an oil tanker off the coast of Oman, in which two crew members were killed. The vessel, Mercer Street, is linked to an Israeli billionaire. Iran denies involvement.
And with Iran in the grip of the worst drought in decades and power shortages hitting an economy already plagued by inflation, sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic, analysts are skeptical that a quick turnaround is possible. Only 3 percent of Iranians are fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
‘The country is in a very tense situation, and Raisi has to make very quick and serious decisions on urgent issues such as inflation and vaccination to give a winning card and buy time until a major decision is made on the nuclear deal and sanctions. Saeed Laylaz, an analyst.
‘But since his victory we have not seen any initiative from Raisi to show that he can tie something big during the first 100 days.
One of its biggest challenges will not be in Iran, but Vienna, where talks on the nuclear deal will resume once the Raisi government takes office. Tehran is in talks with world powers, with the US indirectly involved.
Raisi has made it clear that he wants to improve relations with neighbors, rather than with the Western world. ‘To establish sustainable security and regional stability, the solution is cooperation between regional states based on mutual trust and not the interference of foreigners [western] forces in the region, ”he said.
Hardliners have so far refused to make promises about the outcome of the talks, preferring instead to focus on household priorities. One of these politicians, Hamid-Reza Taraghi, listed the new government’s priorities as 44.2 per cent inflation, removing barriers to domestic industrial production, tackling water and electricity shortages and tackling the budget deficit.
But reform analysts are questioning how Raisi can do this, while sanctions banning oil exports and other businesses still apply. Taraghi said the government needed to find ways to ‘thwart sanctions’, indicating that no agreement could be reached.
One of Raisi’s most immediate challenges is to calm tensions in the southwestern province of Khuzestan, home to Iran’s largest oil and gas reserves.
Recent protests have been caused by the demand for water supply for agricultural land and cattle. Raisi, who was allegedly part of a committee that executed thousands of political dissidents in the 1980s, was not targeted by the protesters.
Yet protesters demonstrate slogans against the regime, such as’ Down with the dictator ‘and’ No Gaza, nor Lebanon; my life for Iran. A regime that came to power through street protests usually stifled protests. At least eight people have been killed in Khuzestan so far, Amnesty International said. Officials have confirmed three civilian deaths and one police officer. There were also solidarity protests in the northwestern city of Tabriz, and protests over electricity shortages in Tehran.
The regime tried to increase the water supply to Khuzestan, and Raisi promised not to wait even a day to tackle problems there. He said part of the ‘massive wealth’ in the region should be spent on its own development. He also talked about the economic pressure many people are experiencing, and promises to help build at least 1 million new homes a year. “Today, not only buying houses but also renting in big cities or even small towns has become an unattainable dream for people,” he said in July.
For the time being, the Islamic Republic is determined to demonstrate stability through a peaceful transition of power. Raisi met with individual cabinet members individually and approached a wide range of politicians, including former political prisoners, about how the country should be governed. Some of those arrested during the 2019 unrest, which reportedly resulted in hundreds of deaths, will be released, activists say.
Raisi also has to contend with division in the hard camp. The more radical members do not want him to bow to public demands for more social and political freedom. Parliament has ratified a plan that could regulate social media and restrict public access to the internet.
Iranians want to see if he can keep his promises. “Raisi must spend 1 percent of Khuzestan’s wealth for the province itself. “It was not asked too much, and we will hold him accountable, even though we have lost hope of any change under this regime,” said a provincial protester who asked not to be named.
The Khuzestan protester added: ‘I am 25 years old, have an electronic engineering degree but have no job, no income and no future. The barefoot people would not be afraid to die if their choice was between starving or being killed by bullets. ”