Iranian Elections Bode Well for Political Unity
The Iranian people elected a new president on 14 June in the first round, with over 70% voter turnout. Hassan Rouhani won a majority 50.7% of the vote. Rouhani should strengthen Iran by removing divisions that had hindered domestic economic policies and made foreign policy increasingly incoherent. Significantly, Rouhani is a highly respected figure in a number of camps, including elite clerical circles, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei himself and even “reformist” figures. Rouhani’s assumption of the presidency will remove the divisions that had plagued Iran with the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was in a constant power struggle with the Supreme Leader. Rouhani is a cleric, but one of moderate social views, and while he is only nominally a reformist, he is first and foremost a pragmatist. In the coming weeks, once Rouhani is settled in office, we will provide a brief analysis of markets. Geopolitically, the election of Rouhani will make it difficult for Israel to continue its saber-rattling over Iran with any serious international support. The election results are very surprising, and certainly were not part of the script. Rouhani could very likely follow very different policy prescriptions than his predecessors, and this could be a major reversal for the “right”. Rouhani’s tasks now will be two-fold: He will have to zoom in on the economy very quickly—within the few first weeks—and he will have to navigate very carefully so that the Right—particularly the radicals like the Guards--will not derail his presidency as they did to Khatami. If he is smart, he will build on and further stir the popular outpouring of support that we have seen in the last few days. This is a historic moment that the Reformists and those opposed to the radical fundamentalists should seize and not squander.