Iran’s New President: Respect Will of The People Who Demanded Change

The results of Iran’s election can be described as a strong demand by the people for change from the hard-line policy that has led to suppressed freedoms and the nation’s isolation in the international community.

In a runoff for the Iranian presidential election, reformist Masoud Pezeshkian was elected for the first time. He has called for dialogue with the West and respect for women’s rights, among other things. He is the first reformist president in 19 years since Mohammad Khatami.

The election was held following the sudden death of hard-line conservative and then President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash. Eighty people expressed their intention to run in the election, but only six were able to do so. All but Pezeshkian were conservatives.

Despite this, Pezeshkian, who had low name recognition, was elected. This highlights the people’s strong dissatisfaction with the current regime.

The Iranian economy has continued to face average annual inflation of around 40% due to U.S. sanctions. The people are struggling through a difficult situation.

Two years ago, a woman who was detained for not properly wearing her hijab, a cloth that covers the hair, died an unnatural death, leading to antigovernment protests that spread to various parts of the country. Authorities suppressed the demonstrations with force, resulting in many casualties.

A change of presidents is an opportunity to switch policies and break through the sense of stagnation. However, realizing it is not easy.

The right of final decision in national politics rests with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. After the election, he asked Pezeshkian to keep the country going in the same direction.

However, voters have made strong demands for social reform. Unless Iran respects the will of the people, their dissatisfaction and disappointment might grow and the regime might become unstable.

In foreign policy, the issue of nuclear development will be a focal point. In 2015, Iran concluded a nuclear agreement with six countries, including the United States, Britain and France, to have economic sanctions lifted in return for restrictions on its nuclear development program. However, the previous U.S. administration of former President Donald Trump decided to withdraw from the agreement, rendering it defunct.

It cannot be overlooked that Iran has promoted the concentration of uranium to near the level of the material for nuclear weapons.

As long as Pezeshkian has expressed his intention to rebuild the nuclear agreement, Iran should reduce its enrichment to within the scope of the agreement as a step toward that end. Tehran should also work to increase transparency, such as by accepting inspections from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Iran is hostile to Israel. It supports anti-Israel armed groups in the Middle East, including the Islamist group Hamas in the Palestinian territory of Gaza. If Tehran wants to ease tensions surrounding itself, it must refrain from providing military support.

Japan has maintained amicable relations with Iran. It is hoped that Tokyo will continue to persuade the new administration that Iran will not prosper while being isolated from the international community.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 11, 2024)