Iran: What happens in transition?

Ebrahim Raisi

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a meeting with Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev on the Azerbaijan-Iran border, May 19, 2024.

Photo credit: Reuters

What you need to know:

  • President Raisi was travelling with his Foreign Affairs Minister in the ill-fated chopper.
  • Iranian president's death could also affect who becomes Iran's next Supreme Leader.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and top government officials died on Sunday after their chopper crashed in a remote village east of the country.

An official record showed President Ebrahim Raisi was travelling on the same chopper with Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Tabriz Friday Prayers Imam Ayatollah Al-e Hashem, East Azarbaijan Province Governor Malek Rahmati and Raisi's bodyguard whose name was not immediately released.

But there won't be a vacuum in power, according to Seyyid Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the country.

Once President Raisi's death is confirmed, Mohammad Mokhber, the country's First Vice President, will take over as interim president for 50 days.

Thereafter, fresh presidential elections will be held.

President Raisi's death could also affect who becomes Iran's next Supreme Leader, the country's most powerful man.

Iran's Supreme Leader is ageing and could be replaced.

President Raisi had been seen as one of the contenders for that position, alongside Khamenei's son Mojtaba Khamenei. 

President Raisi's death now leaves the latter as the favourite to become the next Supreme Leader.

An assembly of experts composed of 88 members sits to appoint the next Supreme Leader should Khameini choose to abdicate or in the event of death.

So far, there have been no claims of foul play by Iran, although analysts outside the country have indicated that President Raisi's death could impact the region.

In Iran, the President is the second most powerful political figure and his decisions must be endorsed by the Supreme Leader.

According to former Somali Ambassador to the US, Idd Bedl Mohamed, who is now a political analyst on the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, Iran's security posture and foreign policy may continue post Raisi.

That posture may include supporting proxy organisations such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine and Houthis in Yemen while seeing Israel as eternal enemy.

Under President Raisi, Iran had reopened diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia, a crucial step given their rivalry had directly been linked to the war in Yemen. 

The two countries read from the same script when it comes to Palestinian issues.

Iran had also reopened diplomatic ties with Sudan.

Iran has been accused by the West of supplying weapons to government forces in Khartoum.

Meanwhile, President Raisi's death has happened at a sensitive time for Iran and the region. 

There have been back channels between Iran and the US, through Oman, to de-escalate the Gaza conflict.