This was an upset, by Iranian standards, though all things are relative. Pezeshkian is a reformist and his election is a surprise.

Iran has successfully but brutally crushed a popular uprising and many had expected his hardline rival to prevail.

The presidency has control of foreign policy and some domestic matters so many expect a shift in Iran’s diplomatic outlook now – perhaps a more conciliatory tone towards the West.

Read more: Reformist Masoud Pezeshkian elected Iran’s new president

Pezeshkian greeted by his supporters as he arrives to vote on Friday. Pic: AP

But any immediate race back to nuclear negotiations is unlikely and much depends on whether Trump returns to the White House.

Masoud Pezeshkian has promised a softening on the hijab or headscarf policy, but has expressed a willingness to bend to the will of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

Reformist candidate for the Iran's presidential election Masoud Pezeshkian clenches his fist after casting his vote as he is accompanied by former Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, left, at a polling station in Shahr-e-Qods near Tehran, Iran, Friday, July 5, 2024. Iranians are voting in a runoff election to replace the late President Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed in a May helicopter crash in the country...s northwest along with the foreign minister and several other officials. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
Pezeshkian clenches his fist after casting his vote. Pic: AP

People line up to vote in the run-off presidential election between Masoud Pezeshkian and Saeed Jalili in Tehran, Iran, July 5, 2024. Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY
Men and women line up to vote in the run-off presidential election on Friday. Pic: Reuters

If there is change on that front, expect it to be incremental and not sudden.

More on Iran

Elections in Iran are not free or fair, the government strictly controls who can run. The fact Khamenei tolerated Pezeshkian’s participation and victory hints at a sense of pragmatism from Iran’s ultimate ruler.

Khamenei knew a miserably low turnout would be another nail in the already well-hammered coffin of his regime’s legitimacy.

A slightly more “real” contest, especially in its second round, lifted numbers voting as people sensed a chance to return a reformist.

Khamenei also knows the demand for change may have been brutally crushed, but its strength of spirit remains. His government must adapt to that. A “reformist” president might ease some of the pressure.

Read more:
Ebrahim Raisi: Who was hardliner Iranian president?
Iranian protesters express ‘joy’ over death of President Raisi

Iranian voters participate in the run-off presidential election between Masoud Pezeshkian and Saeed Jalili,at the Iranian embassy, in Baghdad, Iraq July 5, 2024.REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
Iranian voters take part in the election. Pic: Reuters

Iran’s hardliners will hope they can now neutralise the reformist agenda of the new president from within government. He faces a huge struggle now in a system where he has only limited power.

Follow Sky News on WhatsApp
Follow Sky News on WhatsApp

Keep up with all the latest news from the UK and around the world by following Sky News

Tap here

But there are risks for the elderly ailing Khamenei and the corrupt old men who form his clerical elite. Pezeshkian’s victory could reignite the demand for change in a way they cannot control.

The struggle for Iran’s future may have just opened a new chapter.