Reformist candidate faces hardliner in runoff of Iranian presidential election

Semafor signals: Global insights into today’s biggest stories.

Record low voter turnout could have been a “silent referendum” on the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic

Chatham House, AI Monitor, Eurasia Overview, Bloomberg

The Iranian elections serve to demonstrate the regime’s continuity and functionality, an expert from British think tank Chatham House told Semafor. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tried to boost turnout by saying that “every vote would be a vote for the Islamic Republic.” But after the vote, some said the low turnout was a “silent referendum” against the establishment, and even hardliners speculated about why public trust seemed to have eroded, AI Monitor’s Tehran correspondent noted. The lackluster numbers suggest that most Iranians do not see the elections “as a meaningful path to change,” an expert told Eurasia Review. However, that Pezeshkian received a million more votes than his opponents may suggest that people still have faith in the reform camp, a Bloomberg columnist wrote

Pezeshkian’s appeal to women could increase his support

Ahead of the runoff, both candidates may try to portray each other as an existential threat – Pezeshkian by accusing Jalili of representing religious extremism, Jalili by suggesting that Pezeshkhian is a threat to Iran’s theocracy, The Economist noted. They could also exploit ethnic tensions: Jalili appeals to the Persian-speaking majority, while Pezeshkian could mobilize the resentment of the minority. Women could also represent a strong constituency: anecdotally, women boycotted the election more than men, and Pezeshkian could try to draw them into his camp, for example by promising future cabinet posts, the magazine added.