Will the Expectations of Iran's New President Be Fulfilled?

The political life of Iran is undergoing a transformative shift as Masoud Pezeshkian, an ethnic Azerbaijani and former Minister of Health, assumes the presidency after securing 53.7% of the vote in the recent elections. Pezeshkian, a reformist known for his integrity and advocacy for normalization of relations with the West, now faces the daunting task of navigating Iran's complex political terrain and fulfilling the lofty expectations placed upon him.

Softening Relations with Azerbaijan

In a sign of thawing relations, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met with Iran's outgoing President Ebrahim Raisi on May 19. The leaders jointly inaugurated the Khudafarin and Giz Galasy hydroelectric power plants on the Araz River, marking a potential turning point in the historically tense relations between the two countries. The establishment of the North-South transport corridor was also a key topic of discussion, reflecting a shared interest in bolstering economic ties.

President Aliyev wasted no time in reaching out to Pezeshkian, extending his congratulations and inviting him to visit Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Ceyhun Bayramov expressed optimism about the future, predicting more intensive development of bilateral relations under Pezeshkian's administration. The Azerbaijani Embassy in Iran, which had been dormant, is expected to resume its activities within the next 15-20 days, according to Mojtaba Demirchilu, head of the Eurasian Department of the Iranian Foreign Ministry.

Reformist Agenda: Challenges Ahead

Political commentator Zardusht Alizadeh, speaking on the "Difficult Question" program, offered a tempered view of Pezeshkian's prospects. He acknowledged Pezeshkian's reformist credentials and his ambitions to modernize Iran, but cautioned against overly optimistic expectations. "At one time, Iran was led by reformist presidents like Rouhani and Khatami, but they failed to achieve significant results," Alizadeh noted, pointing to the fragile nature of political reforms in the face of entrenched conservative opposition.

Alizadeh highlighted Pezeshkian's commitment to fostering better relations with the West and neighboring countries, reconsidering hijab regulations, advancing women's rights, and recognizing the linguistic rights of Azerbaijanis. However, he warned that the theocratic system of velayat-e faqih ("the power of the jurisprudent") might stymie these reformist initiatives. "The clerical and political system in Iran will not easily allow such changes," Alizadeh argued.

Historical Context and Future Prospects

Pezeshkian's presidency comes at a critical juncture for Iran, a nation grappling with economic sanctions, domestic unrest, and geopolitical tensions. His predecessors' attempts at reform—most notably, the nuclear deal negotiated by Hassan Rouhani—have often been undone by international developments, such as the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement under President Trump.

As Pezeshkian steps into office, the question remains whether he can overcome the systemic barriers that have historically impeded reformist agendas. His success will depend not only on his political acumen but also on his ability to navigate the intricate power dynamics within Iran's political establishment. The road ahead is fraught with challenges, and only time will tell if the expectations of Iran's new president will be fulfilled.


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