Iran: Mohammad Mokhber takes over as acting president

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*Mokhber, Raisi and Khamenei

With the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash on Sunday, the country’s first vice president, Mohammad Mokhber, will take over with the supreme leader’s approval, based on Article 131 of the Islamic Republic’s constitution.

The article also clarifies that a council consisting of the head of the legislation, the head of the judiciary and the vice president must coordinate choosing a new president within 50 days.

In a statement issued Monday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei applied the article and assented Mokhber as acting president.

“Mr Mokhbar is in the position of managing the executive branch, and he is obliged to arrange with the heads of the legislative and judicial branches to elect a new president within a maximum of fifty days,” the statement said.

The Guardian Council of the country, the body responsible for holding the elections, said that the next president will run the country for four years, not just for the remaining terms of Raisi’s term.

“The elected president in the next election is the president who will begin a 4-year term,” said Hadi Tahan Nazif, spokesperson of the council, according to the official Fars News Agency.

Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, and since taking office has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.

With sensitivities about the succession of 85-year-old Khamenei, the leader of the Islamic Republic, who has the ultimate power in the theocratic regime, experts said Raisi’s death may precipitate a crisis for the country’s leadership.

“In Iran’s conspiratorial political culture few will believe Raisi’s death was accidental,” Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow with the Carnegie Endowment think tank, said on Sunday.
Recall that Raisi, a hardliner seen as a potential successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was killed along with the foreign minister, Hossein Amirabdollahian, six other passengers and crew, after the helicopter carrying them crashed in poor weather in mountains near the Azerbaijan border, officials and state media said on Monday.

Khamenei, who holds ultimate power with a final say on foreign policy and Iran’s nuclear programme, said Mokhber, would take over as interim president, the official IRNA news agency reported.

“I announce five days of public mourning and offer my condolences to the dear people of Iran,” Khamenei said in a statement. Mokhber, like Raisi, is seen as close to Khamenei.

Under the Islamic Republic’s constitution, a new presidential election must be held within 50 days.

Deputy foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani, was appointed as acting foreign minister following the death of Amirabdollahian, IRNA said.

The crash comes at a time of growing dissent within Iran over an array of political, social and economic crises.

Iran’s clerical rulers face international pressure over Tehran’s disputed nuclear programme and its deepening military ties with Russia during the war in Ukraine.

Since Iran’s ally Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, provoking Israel’s assault on Gaza, conflagrations involving Iran-aligned groups have erupted throughout the Middle East.

A long “shadow war” between Iran and Israel broke into the open last month with tit-for-tat exchanges of drone and missile fire.

With Reuters report