A year on, Iran's Raisi faces economy in trouble

TEHERAN (AFP) – A year after Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi took power, his government has curbed the Covid-19 pandemic but faces a sharp downturn of the sanctions-hit economy as nuclear talks remain stalled.

Having pledged to help especially the poor, the ultraconservative cleric now faces runaway consumer prices that have sparked protests.

Mr Raisi was elected in June last year in a ballot for which less than half of voters turned up, after his major rivals had been disqualified by electoral bodies.

He was inaugurated on Aug 3 by the supreme leader Ali Khamenei and sworn in two days later as head of government in the Islamic republic.

When he formed his Cabinet, Mr Raisi named his two top priorities: controlling the region’s worst Covid-19 outbreak, and turning around the battered economy.

Iran’s vaccination campaign, long hampered by US sanctions, was massively stepped up using Chinese and Russian drugs.

For Mr Hamidreza Taraqi, a top official in the Islamic Coalition Party, part of the conservative alliance backing Mr Raisi, the government has “succeeded in curbing the coronavirus and in eliminating its effects”.

The World Health Organisation says more than 58 million Iranians, or some 70 per cent of the population, have now been fully vaccinated.

“Raisi’s government did oversee widespread coronavirus vaccinations after the state reversed course and approved foreign vaccine imports,” said Mr Henry Rome of the US-based consultancy Eurasia Group.

But on the economic front, Mr Raisi’s record is more mixed as Iran remains hit by biting sanctions that keep it isolated from global financial systems.

Iran had hoped for greater prosperity after its 2015 landmark nuclear deal with major powers gave it sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its atomic programme.

But former US president Donald Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew Washington from the agreement and reimposed a punishing sanctions regime.

The economic pain has deepened popular distrust in Iran toward the government, both under the previous president, the moderate Hassan Rouhani, and under Mr Raisi.

The darker mood, say analysts, was reflected in the record abstention rate at last year’s election, which came after the repression of protest movements, especially from December 2017 and again in November 2019.

Iran had returned to economic growth under Mr Rouhani after the 2018-2019 recession.

Disclaimer: This report is automatically generated from worldwide news services. NTN is not responsible for its content and does not moderate it.

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