Liberal democrats across the globe congratulated Emmanuel Macron on his convincing win in the French Presidential Election after he defeated anti-immigration nationalist Marine Le Pen earlier in May. However, the global reaction to the Iranian Presidential Election result was not so overwhelming. International response is not often an appropriate yardstick to measure the importance of such an event.
Incumbent Hassan Rouhani bagged 57% votes to win the May 19 Presidential Election in Iran. His victory is unique, as the outcome has decided the potential of democracy in the West Asian country. He is a moderate politician in the very true sense. Rouhani faced many obstacles after becoming the president for the first time in 2013, but did not change his policies.
Hardline religious leaders still control the judiciary and defence forces even four decades after the ‘Islamic Revolution’ in Iran. The religious leaders backed Rouhani’s rival Ebrahim Raisi ahead of the Presidential Poll. But, Iranians had other ideas. In fact, the voter turnout crossed the 70% mark (which is historical in Iran), as people wanted hardliner Raisi to lose the election. It was a victory for democracy, as Rouhani won his battle against hardliners comfortably.
The Iranian president also faced huge international pressure. Former American President Barack Obama worked really hard to strike a nuclear deal with Iran in July 2015. Since then, the US and Western sanctions on Iran have been lifted gradually and Tehran started playing an active role in global geopolitics.
However, Donald Trump’s victory in the US Presidential Election in 2016 changed the scenario. President Trump described Iran as his No. 1 enemy and declared a jihad against the country. He further encouraged and provoked leaders of those countries (like Saudi Arabia and Israel), which consider Tehran as their enemy. Trump’s crazy provocation might have encouraged hardliners in Iran to capture power, but the Iranian people have refused to bow down to intense pressure and re-elected ‘reformist’ Rouhani as their president. The American president may not realise the importance of Rouhani’s landslide victory, but the world knows.
The Iranian president is well aware of the fact that he will have to keep his promises and to fulfil his countrymen’s hopes and dreams. Iranians want President Rouhani to follow the path of liberal democracy, release political prisoners, protect the freedom of speech and maintain cordial ties with the global community. The Iranian economy is in crisis due to sanctions. Poverty, inequality and unemployment have already triggered social unrest in the country. The situation will deteriorate, if President Rouhani fails to solve the crisis.
Meanwhile, the Iranian hardliners and President Trump are not ready to allow Rouhani to implement his policies. The American president is fully prepared to make it difficult for his Iranian counterpart to resolve the crisis. It is also difficult to predict whether Rouhani can establish a strong foundation of liberal democracy in Iran and resolve the economic crisis (at the same time). This is one of the biggest tasks at the moment not only for Iran, but also for the entire world.
It is just the beginning of Rouhani’s troubles. He will have to meet the greater demand of the Iranian people, the demand for economic development.