- Although the election of the moderate Hassan Rowhani is primarily seen as a victory for reform-minded voters in the middle class and young people eager for change, it was also a victory of sorts for conservatives in Iran. Unlike former president Ahmadinejad, Rowhani is a cleric and may be less likely than the former president to clash with Iran’s religious order and traditionalists. Additionally, Rowhani’s victory restored at least some legitimacy to the government and provided “a safety valve for a public distressed by years of economic malaise and isolation (Erdbrink, 2013)."
- Analysts predict that the presidency of Rowhani could usher in various changes and he can change the entire tone of debates. At the time of the election, there was anticipation that Rowhani might work to lift restrictions on socialization and the Internet. Rowhani has also been critical of the morality police and promised, while campaigning, to work to release political prisoners. Both the New York Time article and a series of opinions published on the BBC website (3 Aug. 2013), however, touch on the pessimism or doubts that many Iranians have. There is a significant expectation that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will try to limit the new president’s powers and block both domestic and international reform efforts.
I think it is very likely that at least some change will occur in Iran with the presence of Rowhani’s calm, moderate and reasonable voice. The United States responded positively following the election, urging the new Rowhani government to “heed the will of the Iranian people (Erdbrink, 2013)” and saying it was open to direct discussion with the Iranian government about the country’s nuclear program. Indeed, events since the election have indicated that at least some amount of change is underway. As Rowhani promised, some political prisoners in Iran have been freed, he himself has joined Twitter and writes frequent, friendly and calm tweets and negotiations about the country’s nuclear program have been productive, making it seem as though the United States may soon lift the sanctions that have been placed on Iran, which will likely be a major step forward for the struggling Iranian economy.
However, it is too soon to tell if any change will be extensive or permanent. It could be possible that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is only willing to grant a certain amount or bare minimum of reform. The new government still seems fragile and unstable, especially in regards to international relationships and nuclear talks, as though a single incident or misstep could undo the small baby steps that have been made thus far. So, while I think it is right to feel optimistic about Iran’s future under President Rowhani, that optimism must be very cautious in nature.
BBC News – Middle East. (2012, Aug. 3). Rouhani inauguration: Iranian Voices. British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-23558174
Erdbrink, T. (2013, June 15). Iran moderate wins presidency by a large margin. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/16/world/middleeast/iran-election.html?pagewanted=1&_r=4&