Iran’s Khamenei seeks trusted hardliner to replace Raisi

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Iran fires the starting gun this week on an election to replace President Ebrahim Raisi, whose death in a helicopter crash could complicate efforts by the authorities to manage a task of even greater consequence – the succession to the supreme leader.

Once seen as a possible successor to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s ageing ultimate decision-maker, Raisi’s sudden death has triggered a race among hardliners to influence the selection of Iran’s next leader.

Khamenei, 85, seeks a fiercely loyal president in the June 28 election to run the country day-to-day and be a trusted ally who can ensure stability, amid manoeuvring over the eventual succession to his own position, insiders and analysts say.

The next president is likely to be a hardliner unwaveringly loyal to Khamenei with a background in the Revolutionary Guards. Someone with an unblemished background and devoid of political rivalries,” said Tehran-based analyst Saeed Leylaz.

Registration for candidates opens on Thursday, although that is only the beginning of a process that will see hopefuls vetted by the Guardian Council, a hardline watchdog body that disqualifies candidates without always publicising the reason.

Three insiders familiar with the thinking at the top level of the Iranian establishment said there had been discussions among the leadership about the merits of various ways of handling the presidential contest.

The prevailing outcome was that the primary (goal) should be securing the election of a president who is intensely loyal to the supreme leader and his ideals. A low voter turnout will inevitably secure it,” said one of the sources, who, like the others, declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the topic.

That goal — victory for a hardline president able to shape a smooth transition at the pinnacle of power when Khamenei eventually dies — nevertheless presents a conundrum for the ruling clerics managing the vote next month.

To ensure the winner is a diehard Khamenei loyalist, it is likely the upcoming election will be dominated by hardliners with outlooks similar to his, the insiders and analysts say.

 

 

 

Reuters/Shakirat Sadiq

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