Iran elections: The polls are open - The possible changes that the new president will bring

The polls have opened in Iran for the repeat presidential elections

Screenshot 6 4 Iran elections, polls

The polls have opened in Iran for a repeat presidential election, according to a statement made on state television by Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi.

The election to replace Ibrahim Raisi, who was killed on May 19 after the helicopter he was traveling in crashed with Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and other officials, is being held amid unprecedented voter apathy and escalating regional tensions.

The first round gave Masoud Pezheskian the lead

After none of the four initial candidates secured more than 28% of the vote on June 50, reformist Massoud Pezeskian and ultraconservative former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili emerged as the two candidates with the most votes, with Pezeskian leading by 3,9 percentage points.

It is noteworthy that the first round of the presidential election saw the lowest voter turnout in a presidential election since the establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, which underlines the discontent of the population that is losing faith in the country's political establishment.

Dozens of candidates were disqualified by the Guardian Council

Three conservative and only one reformist candidate ran for the country's highest elected post after dozens of other candidates were ruled out by the powerful 12-member Guardian Council, which oversees elections and legislation and reports directly to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Pezeshkian and Jalili are at opposite ends of the political spectrum as it is shaped in Iran. Whichever of the two prevails will rule in an entirely different way, at a time when the Islamic Republic is grappling with sensitive domestic and international problems, an economy in disarray, and tensions with Israel and the United States steadily escalating. .

In the first round of the presidential election, Pezheskian was leading with 42,5 percent of the vote, with Jalili trailing with 38,6 percent, according to state news agency IRNA. Of the 60 million eligible voters, only 24 million cast their ballots, bringing the turnout to 40%.

Record low turnout despite Khamenei's exhortation

The record low turnout came in a country where presidential elections typically draw more than 60 percent and despite Khamenei urging Iranians to participate to strengthen the Islamic Republic against its rivals.

Iranians who spoke to CNN in Tehran before the first vote took place said they have little confidence in the candidates running, as they are all controlled by the Guards Council.

The turnout shows that "this anger and disillusionment with the regime as a whole is not just limited to reformers," Trita Parsi, a Washington-based Iran analyst and executive vice president of the Quincy Institute, told CNN.

"Even among conservatives there seems to be a lot of anger and frustration with the system because their own turnout was very low," she added.

Possible changes in the second round of elections

Still, analysts say the second round could see significant changes.

High regional tensions raise questions about whether a reformist president can really make a difference. According to CNN, experts say it may not be as likely to happen, although many in the West believe so.

The Supreme Leader is the one who makes most of the final decisions in Iran. But "that doesn't mean the president and his foreign policy team aren't involved," said Ali Vaez, director of the Iran program at the International Crisis Group.

"The president and his cabinet implement foreign policy and have a lot of influence over the country's diplomatic apparatus," Vaez told CNN.

The two presidencies are different, Pezheskian has the cream of the crop of diplomats

He noted that Pezeshkian's presidency will be very different from Jalili's, as the reformer's entourage consists of the "cream of the crop" of Iranian diplomats.

Iran's track record, however, experts say, shows that in the long run the country tends to follow a more conservative path, even with a reformist president. They add that Tehran's regional policy towards Israel and the US is unlikely to change.

Moreover, a reformist president is unlikely to make a difference to Iran's core policies, such as support for Hezbollah and hostility toward Israel, Parsi said, adding that better relations with the West may still be possible.

Still, Jalili may bring tougher policies to the table and perhaps double down on his predecessor's approach.

Depending on the environment in the West, Jalili may take a "much more confrontational approach to Iran's nuclear program," according to experts who add that despite the restrictions on the president's freedom of action, each brings his own "personal touch » to the government of Iran.