Iran's presidential election unlikely to be a cliffhanger but it will have far-reaching consequences

  • ITV News Correspondent Neil Connery reports from Tehran

In one sense, Iran’s Presidential elections on Friday won’t throw up any surprises. The hardline head of the judiciary Ebrahim Raisi seems all but certain to win.

But while the result may not be a cliffhanger, what happens in Iran in the coming days will have consequences here and be felt far beyond the Islamic Republic. That’s why in another way they really do matter on a range of crucial issues.

Nuclear Deal - World powers are trying to salvage the 2015 agreement Donald Trump abandoned three years ago which restricts Tehran’s atomic activities in return for sanctions relief.

Earlier this week, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said it had reached a broad agreement with the US over the lifting of sanctions on its industrial sectors including energy.

Another round of talks in Vienna to salvage the deal is underway. The Iranian government says the decision to try to resuscitate the deal was made by the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and won’t be affected by the elections.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Credit: AP

It’s possible outgoing President Rouhani may see the deal back up and running before he leaves office in August.

That could allow some hardliners who’ve been opposed to it not to have their fingerprints on it. At the same time, the new president could enjoy the benefits that a lifting of sanctions would bring to Iran’s economy.

Economy - Given its difficult economic situation some experts say Iran is now in one of its most critical phases since the 1979 revolution. The impact of sanctions made worse by the Covid pandemic have left the country with an inflation rate nearing 50%.

Ebrahim Raisi - Widely believed to be the preferred candidate of the Supreme Leader who considers Raisi a close confidante and possible successor.

As Head of the Judiciary, he oversees a system which stands accused of human rights abuses. The detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the 42 year-old British-Iranian mother, and other ‘dual nationals’ has provoked international condemnation and tested Iranian-UK diplomatic relations to their limits.

British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained since 2016 Credit: AP

Iran as a major regional power - Tehran is a major player in the Middle East. Its influence is felt in the wars in Syria and Yemen and it backs and supports Hamas in its fight against Israel.

Iran’s impact is also felt in Iraq through Shiite militias. Its regional rivalry with Saudi Arabia shapes much of what happens in the region. How will a new hardline president use that influence?

The coming days in Iran matter for its people and for the world beyond its borders.