Iran to hold presidential election on June 28

Funeral procession of deceased president Raisi to take place in Tehran on Wednesday morning; military chief orders probe into chopper crash

By AFP

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Iranians gather at Valiasr Square in central Tehran to mourn the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and seven others in a helicopter crash. — Photo: AFP
Iranians gather at Valiasr Square in central Tehran to mourn the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and seven others in a helicopter crash. — Photo: AFP

Published: Mon 20 May 2024, 10:51 PM

Iran announced on Monday it will hold presidential elections on June 28, state media reported, following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and his entourage in a helicopter crash.

"The election calendar was approved at the meeting of the heads of the judiciary, government, and parliament," state television said. "According to the initial agreement of the Guardian Council, it was decided that the 14th presidential election will be held on June 28."


"The Iranian nation has lost a sincere and valuable servant," said Iran's supreme leader 85-year-old Ayatollah Khamenei, whom Raisi had been expected by many observers to one day succeed .

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Thousands of mourners massed in central Tehran's Valiasr Square to pay their respects to Raisi and to Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.

Funeral rites were set to start on Tuesday in Tabriz, East Azerbaijan province, for them and the other victims — three crew, two bodyguards, an imam and a provincial governor — before Raisi's body was to be taken to Tehran.

A funeral procession will take place in the capital on Wednesday morning.

Iran's military chief of staff Mohammad Bagheri ordered "a high-ranking committee to launch an investigation into the cause of the president's helicopter crash".

State TV broke the news early on Monday that "the servant of the Iranian nation, Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi, has achieved the highest level of martyrdom", showing pictures of him while a voice recited from the Koran.

Women mourn the death of Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash at Valiasr Square in Tehran. — Photo: AFP
Women mourn the death of Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash at Valiasr Square in Tehran. — Photo: AFP

Flags soon flew at half-mast and a black banner was hoisted at a major Shiite shrine in the city of Qom south of Tehran.

Global allies Russia and China and regional powers voiced their condolences, as did NATO, while the UN Security Council observed a minute of silence.

Condolences also came from Palestinian group Hamas, Lebanon's Hezbollah and from Syria, all members of the so-called Axis of Resistance against Israel and its allies, amid high tensions over the Gaza war.

The United States, which has for decades had a fraught relationship with Iran, offered "official condolences" said State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

However, he added that "we reaffirm our support for the Iranian people and their struggle for human rights and fundamental freedoms".

People gather to mourn for the death of the late Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi, in Tehran. — Photo: Reuters
People gather to mourn for the death of the late Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi, in Tehran. — Photo: Reuters

The price of gold hit a record high on Monday morning as the shock news boosted demand for the precious metal, which is seen as a safe-haven investment.

However, analysts did not expect major foreign policy changes, pointing out that ultimate power in Iran is held by the supreme leader and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, who work with a regional network of armed groups.

"It will be (the) status quo," Jason Brodsky, an expert at the Middle East Institute, told the BBC of Iran's relations with these groups.

"The IRGC reports to the supreme leader and liaises with Hezbollah, the Huthis, Hamas and the militias across the region. The modus operandi and the grand strategy of the Islamic republic will remain the same."

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he did not "see any broader regional security impact" from Raisi's death.

Iranian authorities first raised the alarm on Sunday afternoon when they lost contact with Raisi's helicopter as it returned from a border meeting with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev to inaugurate a dam.

Only two of the convoy's three helicopters landed in Tabriz, setting off a massive search and rescue effort, with multiple foreign governments soon offering help.

Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi at first spoke of a "hard landing" and urged citizens to ignore hostile foreign media channels and get their information "only from state television".

Guards, army and police personnel joined the search as Red Crescent teams trudged up a steep hillside in the rain while rows of emergency services vehicles waited nearby.

As the sun rose Monday, rescue crews said they had located the destroyed Bell 212 helicopter, with no survivors.

Women cry as people gather at Valiasr Square in Tehran to mourn the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash. — Photo: AFP
Women cry as people gather at Valiasr Square in Tehran to mourn the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a helicopter crash. — Photo: AFP

State TV reported that the aircraft had "hit a mountain and disintegrated" on impact, and the Red Crescent soon confirmed that "the search operations have come to an end".

Raisi had in 2021 succeeded the moderate Hassan Rouhani, at a time when the economy was battered by renewed US sanctions over Iran's contested nuclear programme.

Iran saw a wave of protests in 2022 triggered by the death in custody of Iranian-Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini after her arrest for allegedly flouting strict dress rules for women.

In March 2023, regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia signed a surprise deal that restored diplomatic relations.

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