Our website use cookies to improve and personalize your experience and to display advertisements (if any). Our website may also include cookies from third parties like Google Adsense, Google Analytics, and Youtube. By using the website, you consent to the use of cookies.

Iran Supreme Leader leads prayers at Raisi funeral as election looms

IRAN’S Supreme Leader led prayers in Tehran at the funeral of President Ebrahim Raisi as the clerical establishment hurried to organise the election of a successor, which could further erode its legitimacy amid growing public discontent.

The June 28 vote to replace Raisi, killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday, will need to galvanise a population that showed little interest in the 2021 ballot that gave the hardline cleric the presidency, a role that oversees day-to-day government.

Raisi died at a time of worsening strains between the clerical leadership and wider society, aggravated by tightening political and social controls and a declining economy.

Growing numbers of voters have shunned recent elections, a worrying sign for the leadership, which sees turnout as a credibility test for the 45-year-old Islamic Republic.

“The establishment lacks options to secure a high turnout in such a short period of time,” said a former Iranian official, who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter.

“People are extremely unhappy with the state of the economy, many others are furious about social restrictions and a lack of electoral options could result in a low turnout.”

State TV showed Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei leading prayers as tens of thousands of mourners thronged streets at the funeral in Tehran. Raisi was to be buried in his eastern home city of Mashhad on Thursday.

His coffin, as well as those of Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and other officials who were killed in Sunday’s crash near the Azerbaijan border, were passed over the heads of weeping mourners.

READ:  Iran says it resumes 20% enrichment at Fordow amid growing tensions with U.S.

A resident in Tehran said many people had received a text message on their phones, calling on people to “attend the funeral of the martyr of service”.

Mourners attend a funeral for victims of the helicopter crash that killed Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian and others, in Tehran, Iran, May 22, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS

Iran proclaimed five days of mourning for Raisi, who enacted the hardline policies of his mentor Khamenei aimed at entrenching clerical power, cracking down on opponents, and adopting a tough line on foreign policy issues such as nuclear talks with Washington to revive Iran’s 2015 nuclear pact.

State media said over 40 foreign dignitaries including officials from Iraq, Pakistan, Qatar, Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Kuwait, Russia, China, Armenia and Azerbaijan would take part in a commemoration ceremony in Tehran on Wednesday afternoon.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah would also attend, the Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya TV reported – his second visit to Tehran since the regional rivals agreed in 2023 to re-establish ties after years of hostility.

Iran-backed Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah’s deputy chief Naim Qassem joined the funeral in Tehran.

“I am here on behalf of the Palestinian people, in the name of the resistance factions of Gaza … to express our condolences,” Haniyeh told the crowd, who chanted “Death to Israel”.

A hardline watchdog body in 2021 banned prominent moderate and pragmatist candidates from running for the presidential election, which insiders said was aimed at securing Raisi’s win.

If the same scenario occurs, it will undermine the clerical establishment’s hope of a high turnout in June.

READ:  Iran warns of response if security threatened after ship attack