May 20th, 2017 – Fort Russ News –
– Agencies – By Joaquin Flores –
Today’s presidential election saw a record number of voters turn out, including nearly 2 million new voters. This marked the 12th presidential election since the 1979 revolution, which overthrew the Shah.
Iran’s Interior Ministry said that around 56.5 million are eligible to vote, In order to accommodate voters, poll closing times have been pushed back to 10 pm.
One reason for the large turnout are the issues at hand. Iran has a number of issues, which can be reduced to domestic and foreign matters. In these two areas, there were divergent opinions among candidates, leading to a four-way race between reformists and principlists. As the names would lead one to believe, reformists, like the incumbent president Rouhani, may be called Khatamists – though some distinctions should be made.
Riding on a wave of internal pressure from the Green Movement, Rouhani represented more centrist views than reformist views. Some have assessed that the pressure from Khamenei for Aref to drop out of the 2009 race indicates a tactical move on the part of the Iranian leadership to gesture towards the reform concept, but through a trusted centrist rather than someone like Aref who represented the strong reform wing of the pro Khatami milieu.
Issues important to voters overlapped, and included questions of employment, corruption, inflation, the allocation of national resources at regional levels, and the like.
The issue of sanctions, the war in Syria, and what Iran is or should be willing to do to further along the attempts at warming with the west, towards a lifting of sanctions, and in that context, Iran’s support for Hezbollah against Israel and for the Syrian people in that conflict, also weigh heavily on the minds of many voters.
Thus, the front runner against Rouhani, who is seeking another term, is Raisi. Raisi represents voters and that wing of the establishment who seek to stick to the primary guiding principles of the 1979 revolution, to assert Iran’s role in the region as a local hegemon, even if this could lead to diplomatic issues with the west, the latter of whom over the course of the last year or two has shown an apparent willingness to ease the sanctions program.
Working against Rouhani and for Raisi is that while the west said it would lift sanctions, practical moves have not materialized sufficiently. Working for Rouhani is that, however, such a commitment from the west was made. Raisi used this to show that a policy of leniency or compromise with the west did not pan out as hoped. On the other hand, inflation has stabilized under Rouhani, and the hard-line approach of Ahmadinejad was cited as an unnecessary source for the west’s line on Iran. Despite that, Iran’s leverage at the bargaining table comes not from the reform-leaning centrism of Rouhani, but from its robust and solid approach to the Syria question, one which no doubt Raisi cannot seriously criticize, but rather can show that it was this approach and not a reformist posture that made anti-sanctions bargaining possible.
We report on this subject of the candidates differences on sanctions and Syria in particular not because it these were the the most important matters for all voters, or even the majority of them, but because these are the most tangible subjects which our primarily western readers will be able to relate to and understand. However, as two related subjects alone, this represents a plurality of concern.
That Iran is indeed a democracy may come as a surprise to western audiences, at least as is reflected through the western mainstream media.
It is expected that between 23 and 30 million Iranians will have taken part in this major election once ballots are counted.