In Iran, thousands of government supporters attended funeral ceremonies for the victims of the weekend helicopter crash that killed President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hussein Amirabdollahian. According to state media, mourners initially flocked to a ceremony in the city of Tabris in the northwest of the country to say goodbye to the statesmen.

Tabris is the capital of East Azerbaijan province, where the accident occurred in the mountains on Sunday. Videos shared by Iranian news agencies showed crowds of people under cloudy skies and an open truck decorated with flowers carrying several coffins driving slowly through the streets. People tried to touch the truck and the coffins. According to the Tasnim agency, Interior Minister Ahmad Wahidi was also spotted in the crowd.

Raisi and Amirabdollahian died in a helicopter crash on Sunday. There is currently no reliable information about the cause of the crash, in which the seven other passengers on board the helicopter also died. The Armed Forces Chief of Staff, General Mohammed Bagheri, ordered a thorough investigation.

New presidential elections scheduled for the end of June

Tehran lost two of its best-known politicians at a difficult time. The country is in a massive economic crisis, and many Iranians are dissatisfied with the political leadership. In addition, tensions in the region have increased enormously as a result of the Gaza war – most recently there were direct attacks between Tehran and its arch-enemy Israel.

Raisi’s first deputy, Mohammed Mochber, has taken over the presidential duties. New elections are scheduled to take place on June 28th. According to the state agency Irna, candidates can register from May 30th to June 3rd.

The Guardian Council, an ultra-conservative body made up of Islamic clergy and lawyers, then decides on the suitability of the applicants. In the past, politicians from the reform camp in particular were often excluded before the election. Iran’s political system combines both republican and theocratic features.

After a historically low voter turnout of 41 percent in the parliamentary elections, the Guardian Council may be under pressure to allow more competition in the election campaign to ensure sufficient legitimacy for the new president. However, a retired Iranian professor suggested that this no longer plays a major role and that the system is becoming even more autocratic.

Unlike in many countries, the president in Iran is not the head of state, but merely the head of government. The real power is concentrated in the religious leader, who has the final say in all strategic matters. Since 1989 this has been Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Mourning ceremonies also took place in Tehran and the pilgrim city of Qom

Mourning ceremonies for the dead President Raisi and the other victims were planned not only in Tehran but also in the religious stronghold and pilgrimage city of Qom. When the coffins arrived at the airport in Tehran for transfer to Qom, a military band played, as a video from the Irna agency showed. The bodies were carried along a red carpet. A number of traffic restrictions were imposed in the capital Tehran because of the funeral procession. Iran’s religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered five days of national mourning.

Raisi is scheduled to be buried on Thursday in the Shiite center of his hometown of Mashhad, the shrine of Imam Reza. High-ranking representatives from friendly countries are also expected to attend Raisi’s funeral. Russia wanted to send parliamentary leader Vyacheslav Volodin.

While government supporters mourned Raisi, others in the country welcomed the loss of a politician they saw as an important figure in the political leadership in Tehran that suppressed and executed dissent. Under Raisi’s government, repression in the country was intensified and numerous journalists and activists were imprisoned. Schadenfreude was also expressed.

Scholz offers unusually brief condolences

In an unusually short letter of condolence to Vice President Mohammed Mochber, Chancellor Olaf Scholz expressed his condolences to the government in Tehran and the families of the dead. “Our condolences go out to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the families of those killed in the crash,” it said.

According to the Tasnim news agency, a nationwide holiday has been scheduled for Wednesday. Another funeral procession is planned in Tehran, and a ceremony in honor of the crash victims in the presence of high-ranking foreign dignitaries will also take place in the afternoon.