Saturday, 20 May 2017

What next for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani?

Incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, who sought re-election, won a landslide victory. He got 23.549 million votes out of a total of more than 41 million votes and his arch-rival Ebrahim Raisi got 15.786 million votes.
Iranians seeking greater freedoms have voted for President Hassan Rouhani, to secure second term. However, he is likely to face resistance by the hardliner.
There is perception that Rouhani will face more pressure in his second term as it is feared that the hardliners will create more problems for him.
Rouhani has decisively defeated Khamenei's protégé, hard-line judge Ebrahim Raisi, but the supreme leader still makes the ultimate decisions on policy, and his conservative faction still controls the judiciary and security forces.
They (hardliners) may re-assert their dominance at home by more confrontation abroad, by extending Iran's interventions in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. They also fear more confrontational policy with the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
However, certain quarters believe that since economy is the top priority of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Rouhani's liberal economic policies are likely to get his endorsement, like the cautious support he got for the nuclear deal.
Rouhani, landslide victory in 2013 was on a promise to reduce Iran's diplomatic isolation, spent most of his time on the nuclear agreement with six powers that resulted in a lifting of most sanctions in return for curbs on Tehran's nuclear program.
Rouhani will have to find an accommodation with them, or end up like his reformist predecessor Mohammad Khatami, who whetted Iranians' appetite for change but failed to deliver it during two terms from 1997-2005.
The silver lining is that Rouhani has built his reputation as an establishment figure who could deliver some of the aims sought by reformists without alienating conservatives.
The added advantage is, Rouhani is a regime insider. He is loyal to the establishment. He is not a reformist but a bridge between hardliners and reformists.

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