Split Conservative vote in Iranian election will help Jalili to win

Ahmad Fawad Arsala

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Split Conservative vote in Iranian election will help Jalili to win, while Reformist Pezeshkian  has  Potential Path to Victory:

A Shift in Regime Strategy?

 

In a tightly contested first round of Iran’s presidential election, reformist Masud Pezeshkian garnered 42.5% of the vote, while ultraconservative Saeed Jalili secured 38.6%. As the two candidates prepare for a runoff on July 5, the obvious absence of division of the conservative vote and the history and nature of the regime suggest a conservative Jalili win,  several factors suggest a challenging yet plausible path to victory for the reformist candidate.

The Split Conservative Vote

The division among ultraconservative candidates in the first round diluted their overall impact, benefiting Pezeshkian. However, with the elimination of other conservative candidates, these votes are likely to consolidate around Jalili in the runoff, posing a significant challenge for Pezeshkian. The united conservative base will bolster Jalili’s chances of winning.

Geopolitical Factors and Regime Strategy

Recent geopolitical developments have influenced Iran’s political landscape. The unsuccessful attack on Israel, where the US and coalition forces shot down Iranian missiles and drones, coupled with precise Israeli strikes on Iran, has led the Iranian regime to reassess its strategy. Recognizing the need for a softer image, the regime might lean towards a reformist candidate like Pezeshkian.

War in Gaza and Ukraine Conflict

The ongoing conflict in Gaza has heightened nationalistic and conservative sentiments in Iran, which typically align with a hardline foreign policy. However, the regime’s need to project a softer image could sway some voters towards Pezeshkian, who advocates for better international relations.

Similarly, the war in Ukraine has shifted global geopolitical dynamics, impacting Iran’s foreign policy considerations. With increasing tension between Iran and Western powers, many voters might prefer a candidate with a hardline approach. Yet, the regime’s strategic pivot could make Pezeshkian’s reformist platform more appealing, especially to those seeking economic improvement and social freedoms.

Reformist Challenges and Opportunities

Pezeshkian’s platform focuses on economic improvement, social freedoms, and better international relations. While the Guardian Council’s vetting process limits the potential for significant reforms, the regime’s inclination to demonstrate a softer image could work in Pezeshkian’s favor. The consolidation of the conservative vote and ongoing geopolitical tensions remain significant obstacles, but the broader context offers a unique opportunity for the reformist candidate.

Supreme Leader and Regime Dynamics

The stance of Iran’s Supreme Leader and the regime is crucial. Traditionally, the leadership prefers conservative control, viewing it as essential for handling internal and external pressures. However, the recent military and geopolitical setbacks may prompt a reevaluation, with the regime considering a reformist victory as a means to project a more conciliatory image internationally.

Conclusion

As Pezeshkian and Jalili head into the runoff, the consolidation of conservative support, the influence of international conflicts, and the regime’s strategic recalibration will shape the outcome. While Pezeshkian faces substantial challenges, the evolving geopolitical context and the regime’s potential shift towards a softer image offer a glimmer of hope for a reformist victory. The upcoming runoff will not only determine Iran’s next president but also signal the country’s strategic direction amidst a complex and evolving global landscape.

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