The Unexpected Event of Presidential Election in Iran
Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh
Executive Editor of Iran Review.Org
As was expected, Iranian people created a new epic event through their massive turnout in presidential election on Friday. Although most analysts speculated before the election that as a result of inconclusive votes won by candidates, there would be a runoff, the final result clearly proved that Mr. Hassan Rouhani had won an absolute majority of the votes as a result of which the presidential poll reached the finish line in the first stage. I had already mentioned a number of important points about the presidential election in Iran in my previous article . Here are a few more notes on this issue:
1. Although some analysts are trying to argue that the vote for Mr. Hassan Rouhani was, in fact, a negative vote to the Islamic establishment’s policies, it was, in reality, a vote to moderation and foresight. These two concepts were major components of Mr. Rouhani’s election campaign as well. The high vote garnered by Mr. Rouhani was the result of the collective effect of a number of variables as follows:
- His fair – and at the same time categorical – criticism of certain policies followed by the incumbent administration;
- His finesse in defending his own viewpoints, track records, and policies in televised debates, especially in the second and third debates;
- The full and all-out support provided to Mr. Rouhani by former presidents, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami;
- The smart move by the other reformist candidate, Mohammad Reza Aref, in withdrawing his presidential bid without declaring his official support for Mr. Rouhani. As a result, the clear demarcation between Mr. Aref’s purely reformist attitude and Mr. Rouhani’s moderate views was maintained;
- Increased political understanding on the part of the Iranian people as they were well aware that they could only play a crucial part in determining their own fate through participating in the political process, not by boycotting it;
- The great effort made by Mr. Rouhani and his election campaign to carefully observe the rules of the political game and their clear commitment to pursuing any possible protests to election process through legal channels as specified by the Iranian Constitution. This was very important because it redirected the votes of the mostly traditional sectors of the Iranian society toward him as they were afraid that voting for the reformists would only increase conflicts and tension in the society.
- Another important factor was the clerical nature of Mr. Rouhani, which played an effective role in attracting the votes of a large part of the religious people to him as well as the votes cast by the ordinary people in villages and small towns. There were also many other, less significant factors at work.
2. Mr. Rouhani never crossed any of the Islamic establishment’s red lines throughout his election campaign and in none of his public speeches in order to win more votes. He clearly proved that although he was dissatisfied with some existing policies and procedures, he would do his best to calm down his audience when part of that audience shouted slogans about the events which followed the previous presidential election in 2009. In the meantime, the logic he used to defend the nuclear policies which he pursued when heading Iran’s nuclear negotiating team was totally documented. Even after winning the poll, he urged his supporters not to pour into the streets to celebrate his victory without obtaining necessary permits from legal authorities. This, certainly, has been a very important effort to draw the attention of the Leader of the Islamic Revolution who, throughout the past months, had put regular emphasis on the need for candidates to abide by the law. By the way, let’s not forget that Mr. Rouhani is actually one of the two people who represent the Leader at the Supreme National Security Council, which is the highest ranking Iranian institution in charge of making decisions on matters of national security. Mr. Saeed Jalili, the current secretary of the Council is the other representative of the Leader.
3. It would be a grave mistake to believe in a sharp dichotomy in the Iranian society, by dividing that society into two distinct parts calling one part the conservative camp with the Leader, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, the security institutions, the Guardian Council, and similar bodies in it, and considering the other part the reformist camp, consisting of all the reform-minded groups including all the opposition groups and all the people who have voted for Mr. Rouhani. Such a mindset would only lead to the repetition of the same mistake which the Western media have persistently made when analyzing the Iranian society during the past years. In my opinion, neither the Iranian society, nor any other society in the world could be considered to be so distinctively divided in such a black-and-white manner. The ideas of Messrs. Rouhani, Qalibaf, Rezaei, Jalili, Velayati, and even Gharazi – who has apparently won the smallest share of the votes – have their own special influence and supporters in each and every layer of the Iranian society as well as the government structure. As before, some analysts believed that the votes cast by people in villages and small towns would be directed toward such candidates as Mr. Jalili (due to his special views and approaches), or Mr. Qalibaf (because of his vast and organized campaign). However, during the early hours after the vote counting began – when the vote count for villages and small towns becomes known first – the votes won by Mr. Rouhani rose at an unprecedented pace.
4. At present, Iran has reached a turning point in its history. The next government, backed by high votes and categorical support of people, will do its best to both solve the domestic problems and test its viewpoints and approaches in the area of foreign policy. I hope that the neighboring countries, Europe, and the United States would be able to correctly understand the message of this election. As for the United States, it seems that the US Congress has apparently made ratcheting up sanctions against Iran, without attention to their impact on the attitude of the Iranian public opinion toward the United States, a regular item of its weekly agenda. I hope they would understand the message of the recent election better than the others.