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25 May, 2017 00:00 00 AM
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Rouhani’s victory won’t change anything in Iran

Rouhani is a moderate, not a reformist like Mir Hossein Mousavi or Mehdi Karroubi, who are still under house arrest after they ran for the presidency in 2009 and opposed Ahmadinejad’s controversial re-election
Marc Martinez
Rouhani’s victory won’t change anything in Iran

After a difficult campaign marked by the strongest opposition ever faced by an incumbent president, Hassan Rouhani’s re-election has been welcomed by many with a sense of relief. Having bagged 57 per cent of the ballots – 23 million votes in total –  Rouhani emerged as the undisputed winner of the presidential elections. His nearest competitor, Ebrahim Raisi, a 56-year-old hardline cleric recently appointed custodian of the largest Shiite charity organisation by Iran’s supreme leader, managed to win only 38.5 per cent of the votes.

Despite money and connections,  aisi failed to overcome the unpleasant reputation he acquired for his role in the execution of thousands of Iranian political prisoners in 1988. He has reinforced his hardline image in his capacity as a judge ever since.  Rouhani’s success is, therefore, also partially due to  Raisi’s personality, as it pushed many undecided Iranians to cast their ballots. And while conservatives have envisioned him as the future supreme leader, they are probably reconsidering a strategy that may fragment the Iranian population.
Conservatives even failed to force Rouhani into a run-off election. In order to prevent another first-round victory for the moderates after  Rouhani’s election in 2013, conservatives tried to avoid vote dispersion by limiting the number of hardline candidates. The Guardian Council barred Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former president, from entering the race, the supreme leader offered veteran politician Ali Akbar Velayati the position of head of the prestigious Azad University, and forced Mohamed Bagher Ghalibaf, Tehran’s mayor, to withdraw from the race in favour of  Raisi, the clerical establishment’s candidate. Conservatives even took a leaf from the moderate playbook by using social media – including platforms they have banned, such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and online message applications such as Telegram – to reach out to young voters.
The large turnout – about 70 per cent, according to official numbers – is a testament to the complexity of Iran’s "undemocratic democracy", in which people spent hours in queues in the hope their ballot would change things, forcing the authorities to extend the deadline from 6pm to midnight. More importantly, the elections were a plebiscite for  Rouhani’s decisions and ambitions.
Despite the lack of economic results since the signing of the P5+1 nuclear deal and the subsequent lifting of international sanctions in January 2016, Iranians demonstrated with their vote a strong attachment to the agreement and what it represents: an opening to the world and the hope for a better future. Will  Rouhani’s re-election change anything in Iran? The short answer is a sobering no.  Rouhani is a moderate, not a reformist like Mir Hossein Mousavi or Mehdi Karroubi, who are still under house arrest after they ran for the presidency in 2009 and opposed  Ahmadinejad’s controversial re-election.

The writer is a senior analyst at the Delma Institute, a current affairs research house in Abu Dhabi

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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