But I thought the election was in 2012?!? This however is referring to the Iranian Presidential Election of 2013 (Yes, Iran has elections too). In a 50.71 % victory President-Elect Hassan Rouhani beat out Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf who only attained 16.56 % of the vote. In a historic voter turn out of 36.7 million (73 % of the total registered voters) Iran’s people showed that they were ready to move on from the reign of President Ahmadinejad. The problems Rouhani inherited parallel those seen in the States (rising unemployment) but go on to include sanctions, weak foreign relations, and a people desperate for economic reform.
“Long Live reform! Ahmadi, bye-bye” were some of the phases chanted across the streets of Tehran as people flocked to show their joy and support for the beginning of a new era. In his victory speech, Rouhani voiced concern about easing ties with the States and how the relationship between Tehran and DC was like an open wound needing to recover.
By winning Rouhani, from a centrist party, shocked the world and analysts as the people of Iran responded to show that their views were not like that of their earlier leaders. Being the former nuclear negotiator for Iran, he was one of the few in the election that was willing to promote change within and outside of the Islamic Republic. His calls for reform and reinstating negotiations with the West were heard by the youth in Iran, who in a sense helped him win over the 50% majority needed to avoid another election. Members of the Green and minority parties were all able to come out, after previously declaring no intent to vote, and show their support for this leader who in the future could return relations back to the days of the Shah. Rouhani has been quoted to say that Iran can act as a mediator between the Assad regime and the rebel forces instead of having both sides continue the endless bloodshed to achieve a stable democratic republic. Iran wants the fighting in Syria to stop even though they are the strongest supporters of Assad, but to end the bloody conflict, Iran is needed as one who can play a key role in the peace process.
The result of the election comes at a time where the relations about the nuclear program are on the brink of collapse. The ball game is now in America’s court as the people of Iran have reiterated their support for a new foreign policy. Hopefully, Rouhani can avoid the civil unrest that occurred in 2009, but having the Obama Administration show some support that they are willing to cooperate with the new administration is an integral part of securing Middle East peace. Sanctions seem to be not working as the nuclear program continues to move forward. Rouhani has promised to offer more transparency and constructive engagement, but he needs to understand that sacrifices will need to be made on both sides. Sanctions have crippled the Iranian economy and have hurt the people, more than the government who continues to plow through with its nuclear program. The people of Iran elected Rouhani to get rid of these sanctions and to help make sure that the country can go back to the prosperous days of the Persia.
Overall the reaction for other Middle Eastern nations has been positive as leaders of the UAE and other Gulf states look forward to forging relations that will ensure the success of the Middle East. Leaders of Bahrain and Qatar have also sent welcome remarks to Rouhani but Saudi Arabia, weary of its Shi’a neighbor, has yet to respond to the election. Seeing how Rouhani is from a clerical party, hopes for more religious tolerance are high as clergymen usually respect those of other faiths. Most Iranians have experienced revolution first hand (1979) and have seen how much blood can be shed but they hope for achieving reform through more moderate steps, after all a baby must crawl before it can walk.