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A new beginning: Iran elects Rowhani


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WITH the election of Hojatoleslam Hassan Rowhani to the presidency, Iranians have made clear their desire for change at the top after eight years of conservative rule under the stewardship of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Though the Guardian Council had limited the field of contenders to six men adhering to varying degrees of conservatism, Mr Rowhani seemed closest to the reformist camp. Variously labelled as “reform-minded” and “moderate”, the president-elect had nevertheless won the backing of the reformists and so can perhaps be best described as a centrist with conservative leanings. Yet his election — Mr Rowhani beat his closest rival by a wide margin — is a clear message from Iranian voters in favour of increased reform and openness in the Islamic Republic. But Hassan Rowhani will have to move carefully, balancing the hopes of his reformist and centrist supporters with the realities of having to work with the powerful players that make up the Iranian establishment.

Mr Rowhani is a man familiar with the Iranian political system. He has held key government posts in the past, including deputy speaker of parliament, while on the international front he has considerable diplomatic experience, having served as Iran’s main nuclear negotiator. The cleric-politician can also work to reduce Iran’s internal polarisation, which increased after Mr Ahmadinejad’s disputed 2009 election: he enjoys good relations with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei while his candidacy was backed by reformist former president Mohammad Khatami. To what extent the conservative clergy and the powerful military establishment let him pursue independent policies remains to be seen. What is certain at this point is that Mr Rowhani will have his plate full dealing with Iran’s numerous internal and external issues when he moves into the presidency in August. These include reviving a moribund national economy partly battered by Western nuclear sanctions, resolving the nuclear issue itself satisfactorily as well as carefully managing Iran’s foreign policy in a combustible neighbourhood at a time when sectarian tensions are on the boil and geopolitical uncertainty is rife.

Comments (4) Closed

ganadin Jun 18, 2013 11:12pm

There is no new beginning. Nuclear activity will continue and sanctions will remain in place.

Guest63 Jun 18, 2013 11:20pm

Wishful thinking My dear . Was there any noticeable achievement during the most reformist president " khatami " my view is NONE , was there any useful change during another so called reformist president "rafsanjani' , my view is NONE . So how can be the basic product of the theocracy of the "walayat faqih posing as the true representative of the God on earth " CAN BE A REFORMIST , or do the Iranian people think , it could be the 3rd time lucky !!! , more than 3 decades ago , the people dug the hole for themselves and no matter who comes and goes in the presidency , as long as they do not change the whole system like they did with the dynastic rule of Phalavi , this theorocratic dictatorship will stay on .

Jalaluddin S. Hussain Jun 18, 2013 11:23pm

The Iranian President-elect, reform-minded and moderate, Mr. Hojataleslam Rowhani should work hard and use his mandate to force the West to lift the debilitating economic sanctions against his country. He must impress on the West that Iran has every right to use the atomic energy for the peaceful development of his country.

NASAH (USA) Jun 19, 2013 05:31am

Thanks goodness Pakistan has neither a Guidance Council nor a Supreme Leader to pick the Pakistani president and the prime minister.