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Crowds for Raisi Show Support for Iranian State, Supreme Leader Says

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Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Saturday that the large crowds of mourners who took to the streets of Iranian cities this past week to honor the country’s deceased president, Ebrahim Raisi, were proof of widespread popular support for the Islamic Republic and its system of religious governance.

Ayatollah Khamenei had declared five days of mourning after Mr. Raisi, 63, was killed in a helicopter crash along with Iran’s foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, and five others last weekend. Video from the Iranian news media in recent days showed large processions in honor of the dead, and crowds packed in to listen outside the University of Tehran on loudspeakers as Mr. Khamenei led the funeral service for Mr. Raisi on Wednesday.

“This mourning has proved to the world that the people are loyal to the president of the republic and to all who embody the principles of the Islamic Revolution,” Al Mayadeen, a Lebanese news channel, quoted Ayatollah Khamenei as saying on Saturday of Mr. Raisi, who had been considered a likely successor as supreme leader.

“The majestic funeral that Iran witnessed proved that the people are alive,” the ayatollah added, according to Al Mayadeen, which has long reported closely on Iran and Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militant group.

The Iranian state news agency IRNA also reported sentiments to that effect by Mr. Khamenei, although it did not directly quote him. The ayatollah was speaking at a memorial event for Mr. Raisi and the other victims at the Imam Khomeini Hosseinieh, an important religious site in the capital, Tehran, where Mr. Khamenei regularly holds meetings.

Funeral observances for Mr. Raisi and the others began on Tuesday with a procession in Tabriz, the closest large city to the crash site in northwestern Iran. Their bodies were then taken to the holy city of Qom and to Tehran before the funeral.

On Saturday, video clips of the memorial event released by IRNA showed large crowds sitting cross-legged in the congregation hall, and panned out to focus on the faces of several Asian, African and European men in suits who it said were ambassadors and foreign officials coming to pay their respects.

Iran’s state-backed news media has regularly highlighted the presence of foreign dignitaries at Iranian memorial services as a sign of international support, a move that some analysts say aims to counter portrayals of Iran, whose leaders are under heavy Western sanctions, as a pariah state.

The country finds itself in a moment of acute unease, grappling with a punishing economic crisis at the same time tensions are heightened with Israel, its main regional opponent, during the unpredictable regional fallout of the war in Gaza.

Throughout the mourning period for Mr. Raisi, Iran’s leadership has tried to project a feeling of calm and orderly transition. It quickly appointed the first vice president, Mohammad Mokhber, to serve as acting president, and ordered the snap elections mandated by the Constitution for June 28.

Yet the election will be held amid what many foreign observers describe as plummeting popular support for the Islamic Republic and its system of governance.

Iran’s presidential and parliamentary elections have often garnered high levels of public participation, which leaders have cited as a sign of public endorsement of the Islamic Republic. But voter turnout for the 2022 presidential election and this year’s parliamentary elections was much lower, fueling critics’ arguments that many people were disengaging from a government they see as increasingly authoritarian.

On Friday, Ayatollah Khamenei posted drone footage on social media showing large crowds packed along a main thoroughfare to mourn Mr. Raisi, some of them hoisting long red, white and green flags of the Islamic Republic.

“The massive funeral ceremonies for the President Raisi carried a message to the world in favor of the Islamic Republic & showed its popular roots & strength. This is a power & strength that is rooted in the depths of Iranian society & the Iranian nation,” the ayatollah’s account posted on X.

“Mr. Raisi has continued to provide valuable services to the country even after his death.”