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The country roughly has two competing political factions – the reformists, or “moderates” as they’re more commonly known as in the West — and the principalists, or “conservatives”. Rouhani falls into the first camp and is seen as being more comparatively “Western-friendly” than the principalists, the most famous of which is former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This time that political bloc will be represented by Ebrahim Raisi, who has quickly climbed in the polls and poses a very real threat to Rouhani’s hopes for a second term.
Voters, and part of the Iranian establishment are dissatisfied with the results of the incumbent’s historic nuclear deal with the West, criticizing it for not doing more to alleviate international pressure on Iran. They also point to the US’ newfound aggression against the Islamic Republic ever since the inauguration of President Trump, and some voices believe that a more “hardline” leadership is necessary for Iran in order to defend against the next four-to-eight years of Trump’s Administration. On the other hand, Rouhani’s supporters are reminding the public of just how historic of an achievement it was that the nuclear deal was signed in the first place, and they promise that there will eventually be more tangible benefits to be had. Moreover, outside observers note that the Ayatollah and the country’s military-security echelons already exercise a lot of influence over Iran’s foreign policies, so it might be a moot point in this regard whether a reformist or principlist wins.
That’s a matter of debate, to be sure, but it’s precisely why the upcoming election is so important for Iran from an international standpoint. The Islamic Republic is locked in a regional proxy war with Saudi Arabia which stretches all across the Mideast, and Tehran is depending on a favorable perception abroad to attract investments in the post-sanctions environment. It shouldn’t be forgotten, however, that domestic issues usually prevail over all others in any election, and that next week’s winner might be decided less by voters’ concerns about the US and Saudi Arabia and more about whether the ever-growing youth population trusts Rouhani enough to deliver on his promised economic dividends from the nuclear deal.
We are happy to welcome to our program Nader Talebzadeh, Iranian journalist, TV host, documentary and feature filmmaker. Later on Navid Nasr, independent geopolitical analyst (based out of Zagreb) stops by to share his view.
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