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Middle East

What now for Iran after Rafsanjani's death?

media Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Reuters

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians,Tuesday, attended the funeral of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. He died aged 82 at the weekend. RFI takes a look at who he was.

Rafsanjani was an instrumental political figure in Iran. He was one of the leaders of the country's 1979's Islamic revolution and remained one of the most important political figures in the country until his death. He also served as president from 1989 to 1997 and started a series of economic reforms.

"He was one of the most important figure of the pre and post-revolution era," says Seyed Mohammad Marandi, an Associate Professor at the University of Teheran

"He led in the later years of the Irak-Iran war the defense of the country. He was also the first person who began the re-construction effort after the war."

Rafsanjani was also described as a father figure for Iran's moderate and reformist camps.

He appealed several times for Supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini to rethink the country's relationship with the US.

"He was a pragmastist politician, probably because he was a businessman as well," says Sanam Vakil, an expert with Chatham House. "Over the years he became a big proponent of liberalisation and privatisation of Iran's large public sector. That has made him more moderate over the past two decades. He's also been a promoter of greater cultural liberalisation."

The former President died at the age of 82, while other leaders of Iran's revolution are now well into their late seventies or eighties.

"Let's not forget that one of the founding father of the Islamic Republic, the current Supreme leader Khamenei, is very much a symbol of that first generation," says Ellie Geranmayeh of the European Council on Foreign Relations. "He still has strong grip within the system."

Rafsanjani was an ally of moderate President Hassan Rouhani. The President's victory in 2013 was due, in part, to his support and many say his death his a blow for the president.

Rouhani now faces a tough re-election battle in May, after succesfully reaching an nuclear deal with Western countries in 2015.

"I think [Rafsanjani's death] will make things a bit more difficult for Rouhani," says Mohammad Marandi. "But the most important problem is the economy, and also the fact that the US is not respecting the agreement between Iran and the P5+1."

"I'm a believer that the centrist moderate facion is quite established," says Sanam Vakil "They'll be able to surive, if not thrive, because that's what Iranian wants."

Still, he was the face the symbol of Iran throughout the world for the better part of four decades.Even the White House sent a message, an unprecedented move since the 1979 revolution.

His passing will impact Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's succesion - Rafsanjani was supposed to have a big role in it.

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