As expected, Raisi won the presidential election of the Islamic Republic by an overwhelming margin on Friday with 61.9%, or around 17.9 million votes. In contrast, the main rival, reformist Abdolnaser Hemmati, was able to get just under 2.5 million votes.

Most importantly, the vote was marred by a low turnout – which the regime sees as a key factor in justifying its legitimacy – with a turnout of 48.8%, the lowest turnout of all the elections. presidential elections since the 1979 revolution. As the elections approach, many Iranians had already decided to drop the elections, claiming that they did not feel represented on both sides of the political spectrum.

Youth and career

For many observers, Raisi is not a particularly complex character. His career, ideology and political ambitions have been well mapped out over the decades.

“Raisi is just a soldier. A good one in fact. Someone who does exactly what is asked of him with all his might,” Roya Boroumand, Washington-based historian and executive director of the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center, an NGO dedicated to the promotion of humanity. rights and democracy in Iran, told ABC News. “This is why he has been constantly promoted since he joined the judiciary and became a prosecutor in Karaj – a city close to Tehran – without proper qualification.”

He was appointed to the role of Karaj at just 20, according to his official site. Only five years later, he was promoted to deputy prosecutor of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran, which he held until 1989, a much more influential role in the justice system.

At the time, the judiciary was a particularly important tool for the regime to suppress political opponents and those whose activities were criminalized under new public morality laws.

“This is why people like Raisi have been brought to justice, so that they can settle matters quickly, mainly by issuing execution sentences,” Boroumand said.

1988 mass executions

According to an Amnesty International report in 2018, Raisi was a member of a four-member board of directors known as the “Death Committee”. Along with three other judicial officials at the time, he presided over the execution of thousands of prisoners – most of them affiliated with leftist and communist groups and political parties. The majority of these prisoners had already served their prison sentence and were executed on the grounds that they had not “expressed repentance for their past political beliefs and activities and did not denounce their political groups in writing”, he said. declared Amnesty.

“In many cases, reactions to human rights crimes when they occur within a country’s territory do not go beyond [issuing] statements, ”Ankara-based law researcher and former lawyer Mousa Barzin told ABC News. “Any legal reaction is affected by so many political considerations. “

The Iranian regime has systematically denied reports of human rights abuses by international organizations.

In 2019, 31 years after the mass execution of prisoners in Iran, Raisi, along with several other members of Ayatollah Khamenei’s inner circle, were placed under sanctions by the administration of former US President Donald Trump. Among the reasons given by US Department of the Treasury was Raisi’s “administrative surveillance over the executions of individuals who were minors at the time of their crime and the torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of prisoners in Iran, including amputations.”

The European Union also frozen Raisi and issued a travel ban for his role in human rights abuses, but travel restrictions will not necessarily apply now that he is president and enjoys “diplomatic privileges,” according to Barzin.

Raisi continued to hold prominent positions in the justice system until 2015, when he was catapulted to the influential post of Guardian of Astan Quds, a joint political and religious role that carries enormous wealth.

He used this position to establish a solid base in rural areas. However, he lost the 2017 presidential election to the now incumbent Hassan Rouhani. For many Iranians, it was the first time they heard Raisi’s name and began to understand his uncompromising approach to national and international politics.

At the time, he was criticizing President Rouhani for taking the wrong path in solving the country’s economic problems by relying on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and negotiating with the West in an inferior position. . In 2015, Rouhani signed the JCPOA with the United States and Western powers, which saw them pledge to limit Tehran’s nuclear program in return for lifting economic sanctions. In 2018, however, President Trump unilaterally withdrew from the deal and applied a policy of “maximum pressure” on the regime.

After losing the election, Ayatollah Kahmenei appointed Raisi as head of the judiciary in 2018. His avowed aim was to root out corruption, but observers say such promises ring hollow.

“This is a pure lie. He would only target minor culprits, because everyone in power knows they should never target those in the main power circle,” Borouman said.

Iran-US relations and harsh politics

For Raisi, however, there is little difference between the administration of President Joe Biden and that of Trump. Americans can expect more fiery rhetoric even as the outgoing presidency hopes to revive the nuclear deal.

“Americans have always pursued arrogant plans towards the Iranian people, and every government that came to power has followed this policy,” Raisi said in April before running for president, according to ISNA, the Iranian student news agency.

Raisi’s approach to domestic issues centers on concerns about free internet access and the mandatory imposition of the hijab, which are in line with other hardliners in Iran.

“The preservation of moral values ​​in society is a requirement of the Sharia, a requirement of the law and of civil rights… [Refusing to wear appropriate hijab] does not respect our national law and culture in any way, ”Raisi said in a speech in July 2020.

During his failed presidential campaign in 2017, Raisi also stressed the need to provide a national intranet along the global internet. This position has been a source of concern to many Iranians and human rights activists, who fear that it will restrict the public’s free access to information.

While he is a familiar face to Iranian observers and his political agenda is well publicized, the civil unrest – sparked by economic hardship brought on by the devastating impact of US sanctions, political corruption and COVID-19 – continue to threaten the regime, and a relaunch of the nuclear deal will reposition the country on the international stage. Raisi comes to power at a crucial time in Iranian history.

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