Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi has emerged victorious in this presidential election and will stay for the next four year. But he will also be widely recognized as the presumed successor to Ali Khamenei as the next supreme leader of the Islamic Republic—a position he may occupy for life.
Raisi emerged as the overwhelming frontrunner in the presidential vote, not by rallying the public with a compelling vision, but mainly because the field was effectively cleared for him by his close political allies. Two of the candidates most likely to concern Raisi, the former parliament speaker Ali Larijani and current Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, were excluded from running.
Ebrahim Raisi, a veteran of the Revolution, head of the judiciary, was also responsible for the executions of alleged dissidents at the end of the Iraq-Iran war, since he was member of the “Death Committee”. With this CV he seems have the most coherent answers to the internal and international challenges of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Thirty years after the “Death Committee”, he styled himself as a penal reformer by reducing the harshness of punishments, driving up the number of pardons and turning public hangings into a rarity. Close confidant and possible successor of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Raisi could represent a quintessential bugbear for the rivals of Iran.
Nevertheless, a certain level of continuity is foreseeable in terms of grand strategy and foreign policy. In the Islamic Republic, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) dossier has been exploited for domestic political issues: every move made by Hassan Rouhani’s pragmatic-reformists was attacked by conservatives, ever since the agreement was reached in 2015.
Today the situation has changed: Raisi is in power, aiming at the position of Supreme Guide; conservatives MPs are mostly aligned with the theocratic leadership; the entire institutional landscape is aligned with the Supreme Leader; therefore, the agreement may no longer be used for political controversy, but pragmatically exploited. The Tehran administration needs resources that the release of sanctions (linked to the American re-entry into the JCPOA agreement and the Iranian realignment) could greatly facilitate. Raisi’s conservatives could then feel free to accept certain compromises that they initially opposed.