Western countries curiously look on to results of Iran’s latest presidential election, with self-proclaimed “moderate” Hassan Rouhani winning the majority vote of Iranian citizens. Rouhani has reportedly claimed his top priority to be assimilating Iran into the global community and repairing relations with Western nations.
While Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei remains in the top seat of power, Rouhani is known to be an effective negotiator and could push moderate politicians to put pressure on Khamenei for certain reforms.
Granted, Rouhani is not liberal by any standards, being a cleric who has also served in Parliament. He supported former crackdowns against pro-democracy movements in the 90s.
Yet supporters poured into the streets immediately after his victory, cheering for less authoritarian policies. The media, despite his history, also praised Rouhani’s victory, with the Jonhuri Islamic claiming, “The solid vote for moderation showed that Iranian people are tired of any kind of extremism.”
The Western world examines Rouhani somewhat hopefully. Two decades ago he received a doctorate from Caledonian University in Scotland and he has openly disagreed with Iran’s current uncompromising nuclear stance, both encouraging signs of the possibility of warming relations with the U.S. and Europe.
Rouhani aims to fix the plunge in oil revenue and surge of inflation due to mainly U.S. nuclear sanctions. Indeed, several years ago Rouhani served as Iran’s nuclear envoy and signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to allow U.N. inspectors to enter the country’s nuclear facilities. At that point Iran also suspended its uranium enrichment processes until Ahmadinejad reversed these policies in 2005.
Although Khamenei retains top power in Iran and has proven his unwillingness to compromise when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program, Rouhani, as president, wields influence for political moves domestically and internationally, and could pressure Khamenei into yielding somewhat.
Only time will tell if Rouhani will actually succeed in implementing reform and international negotiation. Perhaps he could even bring an end to hostile relations with the global community and a threatening nuclear agenda.