Iran Presidential Election and 10 Noteworthy Points

Saturday, June 10, 2017


Mehrdad Pahlevani
Asia analyst

The twelfth presidential election in Iran was held on May 19, 2017 after two major elections in the United States and France. While, at first, six candidates had registered to run for president, the mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, and Es’haq Jahangiri, the incumbent first vice president, withdrew from the race later. Subsequently, two conservative and two reformist figures continued campaigning up to the election day. At last, Iran's current president, Hassan Rouhani, won the election to have a second term in office. At the first glance, it may seem that this is the entire story of the presidential election in Iran, but when it comes to the content and analysis of the election, there are ten noteworthy points, which must be taken into consideration as follows:

Contrary to comments made by some foreign officials, the presidential poll in Iran is not simply in the interest of one person, group or party, but also beneficial to the entire political establishment. In Iran, supporting the political establishment takes precedence over supporting individual groups or parties. Therefore, casting ballots attested to the fact that the main goal of the political parties taking part in the presidential race was to show support for the accepted framework of Iran's political establishment, not to oppose it.

Some 75 percent of eligible Iranian citizens participated in the presidential election, while figures released in some longstanding Western democracies show a much lower turnout figure than Iran. As a result, the future support for the policies and decisions made by the 12th Iranian administration will be at a high level.

An overwhelming and developed democracy, which was tested in Iran through May 19 presidential election, could lay the groundwork for introduction of a new discourse of democracy on the regional level. It could be considered as the first domino piece of democracy in the Middle East, which has given new impetus to the march toward political modernization while urging respect for local considerations and sovereign states. At a time that the Middle East is plagued with widespread despair, Iran's elections constitute the single strongest beacon of hope, which promises positive changes in the region.

Iran's presidential election was held in a region where most local governments are not familiar with the election procedure. In a best-case scenario, they are non-professional or even nascent democracies. Unfortunately, some local governments must be considered to be "pre-democracy states.”

In contrast to US presidential election in which the losing party criticized the election process and people poured into streets in protest at election results, the losing party in Iran showed respect for the final results and the winner of the election. This state of affairs can be attributed to political understanding and maturity of the Iranian nation.

The impact of Iran presidential election results will not remain limited to its borders. Iran is a major actor in the Middle East and its election results can affect the entire region depending on what course of action other regional players will take.

Economic growth of the country, people’s welfare, and energizing the development drive were foremost priorities of all presidential candidates. During live televised debates among presidential candidates, they tried to outline their economic plans as the economic outlook of the country was their main focus of attention. Economy is not simply a priority for the presidential election winner, but also for the entire Islamic establishment because its importance has been frequently underlined by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

The president elected through Friday, May 19 election, follows the same policy, which led to engagement with the West and ended in conclusion of Iran's nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Therefore, reports claiming that Iranians are still hesitant on the deal are not true.

Following the presidential election, Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted, "We derive stability not from coalition, but from our people who – unlike many – do vote. Iranians must be respected and are ready to engage.” This shows that the new administration will support engagement with the world without ignoring the country’s national interests. If one only looks at Zarif’s smiles during nuclear negotiations and does not pay attention to his serious attitude when Iran's interests are at stake, it would not be possible to come up with a comprehensive and precise understanding of this issue.

When foreign political actors are expected to deal with Iran, there is no party better than the European Union (EU) to pioneer this process. While Arab countries have treated Iran with a sense of vengeance and the United States has proven unreliable in recent history, the EU has been able to win Iran's trust following the nuclear deal. As a result, it is now in a good position to act as a mediator and play the role of a constructive actor.


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*Photo Credit: France24

*These views represent those of the author and are not necessarily Iran Review's viewpoints.

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