Iran’s new president: a relative win in a problematic system

With American-Iranian tensions high, the continuous diminishing value of the rial (Iranian currency) and increasing sanctions and embargoes imposed by the United Nations, it’s good to know that something got replaced for the betterment of Iran: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  On June 14th, Iranians in the country and those who have fled the regime celebrated the overwhelming victory of Hassan Rouhani. Considered the only moderate out of the six preapproved candidates, Rouhani knocked out his closest competition, Tehran Mayor Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf. Qalibaf who came in second place, only received 16.6 per cent of the vote, compared to Rouhani’s unbeatable 50.7 per cent. Low attendance was not a factor in the results of the election, as 72.7 per cent of eligible voters made their voices heard to the Islamic Iranian regime that they are tired of their leaders’ controversial, extremist, conservative politics.

But, it’s tricky to say if the election was a complete victory. Although Iranians did choose Rouhani as their president on June 14th, they weren’t granted complete democracy in their decisions. With one of the most complicated and confusing electoral systems in the world, Iran’s rulers have essentially set up a fake election system. In actuality, the president of Iran isn’t the supreme leader; the Supreme Leader of the country is the unelected religious extremist Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

All the presidential candidates, including Rouhani, were selected and screened by the Guardian Council of Iran. The council is made up of six unelected Islamic clerics and six unelected Islamic jurists; the members of the Guardian Council are appointed by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah and the Head of the Judicial Power (who is also appointed by the Ayatollah). You can see how there’s a problem here. Basically the council that is choosing the candidates for the election is chosen by the Ayatollah and his colleagues. These rigorous screenings leave major slim pickings when it comes to election time. This year 680 people registered to run, and only eight candidates were OK’d. The people of Iran are forced to choose from the best of the worst in many situations.

Cautious positivity is what many Iranians are feeling towards the recent elections. Ahmadinejad is out, and many are suggesting that Rouhani will be a sounder option; but it cannot be ignored that there is still a ways to go towards complete democracy. With growing turmoil concerning the U.S. and its allies (turmoil that Ahmadinejad has created) and the effects of that on the Iranian economy, Rouhani will have some major repairing to do, which could be enabled by the Supreme Leader. Although the newly elected regime may be just more of the same, it was time to end Ahmadinejad’s power trip that was digging Iran deeper into sanctions. With promises to reduce tensions with western countries and work on domestic social and cultural issues, many are calling Rouhani’s win a glimpse of hope for the future.

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