Finally, the Iranian elections have been fought and won, and a candidate with support from the not-so hardline faction of reformists and moderates has emerged triumphant with a comfortable victory making a run-off unnecessary.
Many people would argue that democracy in Iran isn’t true, because the people’s choices are restricted to a few candidates as approved by the all-powerful ‘Guardian Council’, and even when a president is elected, the unelected Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has the final say on issues such as foreign policy, national Security and Irans Nuclear Program amongst others, but the truth is that most of America’s allies in the region are not even one-bit as democratic as Iran, regardless of the flaws inherent therein. The peoples of such places as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and the likes would be dying to have just a bit of the democracy the Iranians seem to enjoy.
Another major setback in the Iranian elections is the seeming gender discrimination. Even though it is not expressly engraved in stone that women cannot aspire to be president, a leading member of the Guardian Council opined last week that it is not likely that a woman would be allowed to contest for presidency even though she may be allowed to contest for another position.
The election of a Rouhani by the majority of Iranians is indicative of the direction Iranians now wish to be led, it will appear that they’ve grown weary of hardliners like the outgoing Ahmadinejad whose rantings have brought nothing but international sanctions, economic woes and even a litany of earthquakes (which he definitely can’t be held responsible for).
There are indeed lots of problems and challenges facing Iran today, that it is expected that Rouhani will hit the grounds running immediately to begin to tackle them.
Internally, the effect of sanctions has been biting hard on the citizens even though they were intended for the ruling class, this is an area the new president will be expected to focus his attention to alleviate the sufferings of the masses to forestall an uprising, the likes of which is currently rocking the boats of most middle-eastern countries. Ahmadinejad’s policy of paying some stipends into the bank accounts of Iranians is not an economically viable way out of the mess the country is currently in.
One may be expecting too much at this point to include the widening of the political space to the discourse in Iran, but it is an ideal the new president could pursue. He should also ensure more rights and freedoms to Iranians. The talk about a rich history of human civilization even before the birth of most of today’s western and democratic nations shouldn’t just be mere lip service but should also include working to make Iran’s present civilization conform to today’s idea of human rights and respect for the rule of law (based on Internationally agreed principles).
Freedom of speech and association should also be enshrined in the constitution and even though that might be beyond the purview of the president he should be seen to be working in that direction. The present climate where people with divergent thoughts and opinion are arrested, then beheaded as ‘spies’ of America or Israel is untenable and will only breed resentment and future revolutions if not reversed.
Internationally, there’s no gainsaying the fact that Iran is presently isolated in a cocoon by the International community. Even China that used to buy about 20% of Iranian oil has conceded to American pressure to their advantage and looked elsewhere for supplies. The sanctions are biting hard on Iranian banks and businesses and they have to act through proxies to do business with the outside world, unfortunately the United States continues to tighten the noose around the economic neck of Iran to make her yield to the International Communities’ demands to be more forthcoming on her Nuclear Program.
It is expected that Rouhani will work to ease the present tension by becoming more transparent as regards Iran’s plan to use Nuclear Power towards peaceful purposes as they claim. The employment of positive diplomacy will ensure that this is done without loss of face or standing of Iran among the comity of nations.
Irans support for terrorist groups such as the Hezbollah is another headache that must be dealt with. Events in the recent past show that they’ve removed from just attacking and making inflammatory gestures and statements against Israel to spreading their tentacles to countries such as Syria, where they are engaged in a proxy war on behalf of the Assad government, and to Kenya and Nigeria where some elements have been arrested for importation of arms and ammunition used in arming Islamic insurgents in both countries, giving Iran the unenviable tag of state sponsor of terrorism globally.
I hope Rouhani will play down on the anti-Israel rhetoric as it did no Iranian under the Ahmadinejad regime any good. Israel has come to stay and even though Iranians may not like that (as do the majority of peoples of middle-eastern states) they shouldn’t also necessarily make the removal of the Israeli state from the world map a ‘policy of state’, when they do not have the capability to so do or even seem to be actively pursuing the possibility of such to it’s logical end.
Most people may not see this election and it’s outcome as anything positive but unlikeliest things have happened in the past. Who knows what would’ve happened if the Americans had coyed towards Rafsanjani’s and Khatami’s positive signals in the past? Maybe we wouldn’t have had an Ahmadinejad!
The Iranians have made a choice, even in the most unusual of situations, and once ratified by the Ayatollah, Hassan Rouhani will steer the ship of the state of Iran for the next four years. It is everybody’s hope that Iran will once again return to take her rightful place among the comity of nations.