Raisi is Dead: What Next in Iran and What Impact Will It Have on State Politics?

Raisi is highly respected and popular in Iran, and he is often cited as the favorite to succeed Ali Khamenei as Iran's supreme leader

by Sededin Dedovic
Raisi is Dead: What Next in Iran and What Impact Will It Have on State Politics?
© Majid Saeedi / Getty Images

After hours of uncertainty, Iranian media confirmed on Monday morning that the country's president, Ebrahim Raisi, died in a helicopter crash the previous day. The cause of the helicopter crash in which Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was on board is a technical failure of the aircraft, reports the Iranian news agency IRNA.

"Raisi was martyred on Sunday (May 19, 2024) due to a helicopter crash caused by a technical failure of the aircraft," the Iranian state news agency report stated. IRNA did not specify the nature of the helicopter's malfunction.

Search and rescue teams scoured the rugged part of the dense forest through rain and fog for hours before finding the crash site. There were no survivors. The helicopter carrying President Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian crashed on Sunday in the northwestern region of Verzegan, Iran, killing all six other people on board in addition to Raisi and Amir-Abdollahian.

Iran has declared a five-day mourning period, and the funeral will take place tomorrow in Tabriz.

Iranians gather at Valiasr Square in central Tehran to mourn the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein A© Majid Saeedi / Getty Images

The helicopter was transporting the 63-year-old ultraconservative president and Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, along with other officials, back from a visit to Azerbaijan.

Raisi came to power in 2021 after conservative and moderate rivals were disqualified by the hardline supervisory body, replacing moderate President Hassan Rouhani, reports DW. What consequences will Sunday's accident have for Iran? Born in 1960 in a strictly religious family in the country's second-largest city, Mashhad, Ebrahim Raisi underwent thorough theological education.

He held the title of hojatoleslam, which literally means "authority in Islam." In the Iranian religious hierarchy, this position is just below that of an ayatollah. Raisi began his career two decades after the 1979 Islamic Revolution when he was appointed chief prosecutor in Karaj, a suburb of Tehran.

This was the first of many positions he held in the judiciary. Later, he became a judge, and since 2019, he was the head of the country's judiciary.

Raisi's tenure

Raisi was often cited as a favorite to succeed Ali Khamenei as Iran's supreme leader.

During Raisi's tenure, nuclear negotiations with the United States stalled, and major unrest erupted across the country at the end of 2022 following the death of Jina Mahsa Amini, who died in custody after being arrested by the morality police for allegedly improperly wearing her hijab.

, Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi visits the site of a road and rail bridge project over the Aras River, following an inaugurati© Handout / Getty Images

Iran also intensified uranium enrichment and supported Russia in attacks on Ukraine.

Last month, Iran launched a missile and drone attack on Israel amid the Gaza conflict and continued to arm allied groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. Earlier this month, Raisi stated that "Iran supports the legitimate defense of the Palestinian nation," while praising Hamas' efforts in "resistance."

What will happen next?

Even before Raisi's death was officially confirmed, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei urged Iranians not to worry about the country's leadership, saying that "there will be no disruption in the country's work." According to Article 131 of the Iranian Constitution, if the president dies while in office, the first vice president takes over duties, subject to confirmation by the supreme leader.

A council consisting of the first vice president, the speaker of parliament, and the head of the judiciary must then conduct elections for a new president within 50 days, reports DW. Acting President of Iran Mohammad Mokhber appointed Ali Bagheri Kani, the current nuclear negotiator, as acting foreign minister today.

This was announced by government spokesman Ali Bahadori Jahromi, reported by state television. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and other officials died in a helicopter crash that disappeared yesterday afternoon while flying over a mountainous and forested area in the northwest of the country in severe weather conditions with rain and thick fog.

The wreckage of the helicopter was found early this morning after hours of searching, and the deaths of the president and all others on board were confirmed. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed earlier today First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber as the acting president of the country following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in the helicopter crash.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, called for a minute of silence at a nuclear safety conference in Vienna in memory of the Iranian president and other deceased individuals.

On the social network X, he expressed condolences to the families and people of Iran. Grossi visited Iran earlier this month as Tehran and the IAEA negotiate the implementation of the nuclear agreement.