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What next for Iran after President Raisi’s death? An Analysis

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Editorial

Ebrahim Raisi, who was positioned for a potential rise to the top leadership of the Islamic Republic, tragically met his end in a helicopter crash on Sunday, altering the course of Iran’s political future. The sudden demise of the hardline president has disrupted the speculation surrounding the succession of the 85-year-old Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and has posed a test to the system where conservative hardliners currently dominate all branches of power.

While Raisi’s death is not expected to significantly alter Iranian policy or the functioning of the Islamic Republic, it has prompted the need for a new recruit who can uphold conservative unity and loyalty to Khamenei. His opponents view his departure as a potential opportunity for a shift away from the regime he represented. For Iran’s ruling conservatives, the state funeral will serve as an emotional and symbolic occasion to signal continuity amidst global scrutiny.

The seat held by Raisi on the Assembly of Experts, the body responsible for selecting the new supreme leader, now needs to be filled. This highlights the opaque and intricate process of succession within Iran’s leadership. Additionally, the immediate political challenge involves organizing early presidential elections, with power temporarily transferred to Vice-President Mohammad Mokhber.

Furthermore, Raisi’s death has exposed the absence of an obvious successor within his conservative ranks, intensifying the competition for influence within the parliament and at local levels. Whoever assumes Raisi’s position inherits a challenging agenda and limited authority, as ultimate decision-making power in the Islamic Republic rests with the Supreme Leader.

During Raisi’s presidency, Iran faced significant domestic and international challenges, including economic hardship, protests, and tensions in the region. His tenure was marked by escalating inflation, currency devaluation, and widespread protests against restrictive laws, leading to a crackdown by authorities. Raisi’s presidency also coincided with the unravelling of the landmark nuclear deal and limited progress in diplomatic talks with the US.

The crash also claimed the life of Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who played a key role in diplomatic efforts to navigate Iran’s relations with the world and mitigate the impact of sanctions. His sudden death has left a void in Iran’s diplomatic apparatus.

Overall, Raisi’s unexpected death has set in motion a series of political and diplomatic challenges for Iran, shaping the future of the country’s leadership and its relations with the international community.

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