Moderate Hassan Rohani has been confirmed as President of the Iranian Republic for the second term, with 56.88% of the votes. Conservative candidate Ebrahim Raisi remained with 38.55%. This is, above all, a victory of continuity for the Iranians, who have rejected the return to the radicalism of the ultra-conservatives close to former president Mahmud Ahmadinejad. "These have been the first elections without one of Iran’s central figures since the Revolution: Hashemi Rafsanjani. The vote is a sign of continuity," professor of the University of California (UCLA), James Gelvin explained to ABO. The second significant figure of this vote was the high turnout to the polls: 73%. Picture of long queues, along with extended closing times of the polling stations in major Iranian cities, were a success for the Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, who, since the eve of the vote, has focused on mass participation in the vote. This is also a sign of maturity for the post-revolutionary Iranian political system, in a context of political debate that, especially during the election campaign, always becomes intricate.
Hassan Rohani's inauguration speech
Iran has chosen a policy of openness and dialogue. "Iran is willing to strengthen and expand its international ties in all fields," Rohani clarified after his re-election. This openness was at the center of the nuclear deal of July 2015, but was questioned by the election of Donald Trump in the United States and by the additional sanctions that were imposed on Iranian politicians engaged in the development of the missile industry. Yet, it does not seem likely that a revision of the Vienna agreement will be on the cards. "Reviewing the nuclear deal would be too complex for Trump. The economic elites in Europe and the United States appreciate the Vienna Agreement," added Gelvin.
However, just as the results were officially announced, U.S. President Donald Trump, on a visit to Saudi Arabia, announced a massive sale of weapons to his Saudi ally. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson piled it on by adding that the U.S. want Iran to dismantle the regime’s terrorist networks, end the ballistic missile tests and re-establish its respect for human rights. In reality, Iran is one of the main countries engaged in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in the region.
The Iranian president then assured that "the Iranian elections show the countries in the region that security can be restored by enhancing democracy" and former president Muhammad Khatami recalled that he had supported him in the election campaign. Khatami is banned from the public scene and has been dedicated, in recent years, to supporting the civil society. Rohani can boast many successes in his favor. The first is his rapprochement to the international community with the nuclear deal. Foreign investments are now on the rise, inflation has declined drastically and the local economy’s growth rate exceeds 7%. Yet, there are many unknowns: starting with youth unemployment rate, which is still very high.
The election campaign
The campaign that accompanied conservative challenger Ibrahim Raisi tried everything. His supporters made a door-to-door appeal in the days preceding the vote to persuade the disadvantaged classes and the traditional ultra-conservative advocates to go to the polls in their masses on election Friday. Raisi obtained the support of the Pasdaran and the men of Mahmud Ahmadinejad, the former radical president, who was excluded from the electoral competition. However, many conservatives close to the Reza Foundation in Mashhad, led by Raisi himself, gave their support to the establishment’s candidate. Supreme leader Ali Khamenei, deus ex machina of Iran’s domestic and foreign policy, chose not to stand for either candidate in the election. Yet, in his electorate, many sympathized with Raisi. In support of the conservative candidate was the other protagonist of this election campaign, the mayor Teheran Qalibaf. On the eve of the vote, he decided to retire and declare his support for Raisi. Qalibaf was involved in another complex electoral competition: the Tehran municipal elections that were held in conjunction with the presidential vote.
The 2017 presidential elections mark an important step in recognizing the maturity and stability of the Iranian political system. The re-election of Hassan Rohani is a sign of continuity with regard to his first term and in relation to the presidencies of his point of reference on the Iranian political scene: Hashemi Rafsanjani. Rohani’s victory is the acknowledgement of the validity of the nuclear deal and the reconciliation of the Iranian people with the rest of the world. It confirms the successes in economic policy of the moderate presidency but also paves the way to further reforms that will finally end the economic crisis and open up new opportunities for young Iranians.