President Rouhani: What Does The 2017 Iranian Presidential Election Mean?

2017 Iranian Presidential elections resulted in a landslide victory for the current President Hassan Rouhani. 41million Iranians, equating to a 73% turnout, voted for their next president on 19th May, and about 58.8% of the voters wanted Rouhani to continue with his presidency. His main rival, the conservative Ebrahim Raisi, received 38.5% of the votes, which was not sufficient for the second round of elections.

Rouhani advocates for liberalization, aspiring “to live in peace and friendship with the rest of the world.” Within weeks of becoming president in 2013, Rouhani held a meeting with former President Barack Obama, the first direct contact between Iran and US since the 1979 revolution. Subsequently, Iran became more engaged with other countries as well. Ultimately, this led to the nuclear deal in 2015. Rouhani is often seen as the negotiator in the long-term nuclear deal with six other world powers (China, France, Germany, Russia, UK and US), completing the 12-year long negotiations on one of the most important international crises. In the deal, Iran agreed to decrease its uranium stockpile and in return, the sanctions imposed by the UN, US and EU were to be lifted. For the 2017 elections, the re-elected President advocated once again for outward-looking policies. However, Iran’s relations with US are still unclear as Mr. Trump expressed dissent against the nuclear deal, calling it the “worst deal ever.” Nonetheless, Rouhani’s victory means that Iran is likely to be open to and more engaged in international issues.

In terms of domestic issues, Rouhani still faces many difficulties. Even though the Iranian economy grew by 7% and brought inflation levels down to a single digit, the unemployment rates are still very high: 31% of men and 53% of women. Moreover, Iran is rife with human rights abuse, and it has not improved with Rouhani who did not address the issue publicly. The President, however, does support women’s rights. He has said that “there must be equal opportunities for women. There is no difference between man and woman in their creation, in their humanity, in their pursuit of knowledge, in their understanding, in their intelligence, in their religious piety, in serving God and in serving people.” He was also the first and second to appoint a woman for the position as a spokesperson for the foreign ministry and ambassadors respectively. Hence, though Rouhani instigated positive changes in the economy and for women’s rights, Iran still has considerable improvements to make in terms of general human rights.

Russia and Assad congratulated Rouhani in his re-election, President Putin sending a congratulatory telegram and Assad a cable to Rouhani. Kremlin also stated on its website that “the Russian President also expressed confidence in the further successful implementation of the agreements,” whereas Assad congratulated Rouhani “for the trust that was given to him by the Iranian People.”

The 2017 Iranian re-elections confirmed that Rouhani will continue his presidency for another four years. Rouhani has an outward looking vision in regards to foreign relation but has not improved human rights issues within his country during his previous four years as president. Only time will tell whether these policies will change.