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Analysis

Can Iran's new president challenge country's powerful hard-liners?

From the revival of the nuclear deal and fixing the battered economy to easing hijab restrictions and improving women's rights, the Reformist president has made ambitious promises to the disillusioned electorate.
Iranian reformist candidate Masoud Pezeshkian (C-R) and Iran's former foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (C-L) gesture after voting in Tehran on July 5, 2024. Polls opened on July 5 for Iran's runoff presidential election, the interior ministry said, pitting reformist candidate Masoud Pezeshkian against ultraconservative Saeed Jalili in the race to succeed Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a May helicopter crash. (Photo by ATTA KENARE / AFP) (Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)

Once a low-profile lawmaker, Reformist Masoud Pezeshkian is now Iran's new president following his victory in a runoff vote on Friday, where he beat his ultraconservative rival Saeed Jalili in a lengthy race defined by factional bitterness. 

The election was held following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash alongside other Iranian officials on May 19.

The official results saw Pezeshkian win 16.3 million of the 30.5 million votes, leaving Jalili behind with 13.5 million votes. The voter turnout stood at 49.8%, which was higher than the turnout during the first round on June 28, which registered the lowest ever voter participation in Iran's history after boycotts by some 60% of the electorate, whose apathy was explained by discontent with an array of economic maladies and human rights grievances.  

With the poorest ever support from eligible voters in any Iranian presidential election — only 26% — Pezeshkian is already grappling with the question of legitimacy, which will be unsurprisingly thrown at him by hard-line rivals during his tenure. 

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