Iran's President Raisi is dead. What's next?

Search teams located helicopter carrying Raisi, Iran's foreign minister on Monday morning

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Reuters
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Web Desk
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi gestures during a meeting with Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro at the Miraflores Palace, in Caracas, Venezuela June 12, 2023. — Reuters 

Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi was killed in a helicopter crash in mountainous terrain due to poor weather, the country's Mehr news agency said on Monday. 

A large-scale search and rescue operation in the fog-shrouded mountain area of East Azerbaijan province was launched and the search teams located the wreckage on Monday morning. 

According to the constitution of Iran, this is what happens when a president is incapacitated or dies in office.

If a president dies in office, Article 131 of the Islamic Republic's constitution says that the first vice president — who is Mohammad Mokhber — takes over. 

This happens after the confirmation of the supreme leader, who has the final say in all matters of state in Iran.

A council consisting of the first vice president, the speaker of parliament and the head of the judiciary must arrange an election for a new president within a maximum period of 50 days.

Raisi was elected president in 2021 and, under the usual timetable, a presidential election had been due to take place in 2025. Under constitutional rules, it can now be expected to take place by early July.

What happened?

On Sunday, Iranian state television reported that the helicopter carrying Raisi had an "accident" in the Jolfa region of East Azerbaijan province amid poor weather conditions.

The accident happened in the mountainous protected forest area of Dizmar near the town of Varzaghan, said the official IRNA news agency.

Raisi had earlier inaugurated a dam project with his Azeri counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, on the border between the two countries.

Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi described the accident as a "hard landing due to the weather conditions".

Raisi's convoy comprised three helicopters including two that landed safely in the northwestern city of Tabriz.

Vahidi had said it was "difficult to establish communication" with the third helicopter which was carrying Raisi.

Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian was also on board along with the governor of East Azerbaijan and the province's main imam, according to IRNA news agency.

Following the incident, rescue teams fought blizzards and difficult terrain through the night to reach the wreckage in East Azerbaijan province in the early hours of Monday.

However, an Iranian official told Reuters the helicopter carrying Raisi and Amirabdollahian was completely burned in the crash on Sunday.

Later, a senior Iranian official, requesting anonymity following the sensitivity of the development, told Reuters: "President Raisi, the foreign minister and all the passengers in the helicopter were killed in the crash."