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General Atmosphere in Iran Following Presidential Election

By Mahmoud Reza Golshanpazhooh, Executive Editor of Iran Review

The election of Mr. Hassan Rouhani as the 11th president of the Islamic Republic of Iran was a great event for the Iranian people. One may almost categorically predict that if the current conditions continue, the Islamic Republic will experience one of its most powerful positions both inside the country and on a regional scale during the next few years. Despite the lapse of more than three decades since the victory of the Islamic Revolution, and in view of all the hardships and problems the country has been through - from the imposed war with Iraq to post-election turmoil in 2009 and sanctions imposed on Iran under the pretext of the country's nuclear energy program -, such a situation was never predictable.

What are the main coordinates of this new atmosphere and developments in Iran politics?

First) Looking back at the series of political developments which took place during the past few weeks between the voting day [on July 14] and announcement of Mr. Rouhani's name as the final winner of the election contest, one may come across a number of important developments:

1. The original announcement about participation of Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani in the election followed by his disqualification by the Guardian Council caused consternation and disillusionment of people who considered him as the most potent person who could bring different views close together and reinvigorate the country's ailing economy. However, the disqualification was not followed by any form of illegal protests in the society.

2. The second development was marked by avoidance of the reformist figures from boycotting the election process; acquiescence to and remaining silent about the disqualification of Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani; encouraging other rival candidates to put up a powerful presence in the votes by Mr. Rafsanjani; the arrangement of eight qualified presidential candidates; and the letter that the Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei wrote to those hopefuls who had accepted their disqualification and had abode by the law. On the other hand, serious and attractive interaction and rivalry among the qualified candidates during televised debates led to hot election debates among the ordinary people as well, which although somehow belated compared to previous elections, they were adequately energetic and fervent.

3. The third development was all-out involvement of all Iranian media (including the state-run TV and Internet websites) in the election campaign and subsequent increased heat of the election debates among people; as well as the extensive coverage of provincial visits and gatherings by various candidates in different Iranian cities which, in turn played a very positive role in dispelling doubts in the minds of people who were hesitant about taking part in the election. Meanwhile, the all-out support provided by Messrs. Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami [both former Iranian presidents] to Mr. Rouhani and withdrawal of the reformist candidate, Mohammad Reza Aref, in order to pave the way for more votes to be channeled toward Mr. Rouhani, were also effective.

4. The fourth development was the strenuous effort made by the Leader of the Islamic Republic [Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei] to warn officials against expressing any kind of ambiguous views and quoting him as the source, and his admonition against efforts made by certain people who tried to read the Leader's intent. On various occasions, the Leader emphasized the necessity of holding healthy elections, noting that even his family members did not know for whom he would vote. Other points of importance were supervised counting of the votes which was done with no unnecessary hue and cry or tension among concerned state bodies, and finally, the election win of Mr. Rouhani in the first round of the polls - a development which none of the political experts considered possible due to the probability that Mr. Rouhani's votes would be close to those of Mr. Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran.

Second) After the name of the president-elect was announced, the country witnessed a much more beautiful turn of events in its political scene, including:

1. The felicitation message [to Mr. Rouhani] by the Leader of the Islamic Republic; congratulatory messages sent by five rival candidates (as two out of the originally eight candidates had already quite the election race); presence of a large number of Mr. Rouhani's rival figures and even critics during the first few days following the elections at his office at the building of the Center for Strategic Research, and the warm welcome that he offered them, which served to clear up the hazy atmosphere which characterized the country's political arena before the election. The effort made by the new president to demonstrate, both in words and deeds, that this is not a time for settling old scores and using the election win as a stick to hit the opponents of the president, and his insistence that major strides should be taken toward the resolution of the grave problems which face the country in various fields, all served to flush out the negative energy that, for various reasons, had permeated the Iranian society during the past years. Perhaps some political circles expected that Iran's election turnout would be quite low, but they saw that this did not happen. Therefore, in an effort to avoid accepting the truth, they are projecting future problems with which the new government will be grappling in order to allege that the administration of Mr. Rohani will be a failure. They, however, should be present in Iran to see how the general atmosphere in Iran, especially in the capital Tehran, is different these days. Without a doubt, people have increased hope in future improvement of the situation although no tangible change is currently visible in major economic, social or political indices.

Despite the apparent lack of change, a general expression of satisfaction is evident on the faces of ordinary people who you meet on the streets. The real miracle of hope is the renewed hope among people about the establishment of an administration which will put moderation and rationality on the top of its political agenda. Perhaps, it would seem somehow crude and too optimistic to predict such issues now that the new administration has not taken office yet. However, when browsing the Internet, you would come across comments posted under various news stories and analyses in different websites, which instead of aiming to slander the rival figures and seeing themselves as absolutely right, are more focused on the necessity of balance, calm, and hope in the society and emphasize the need to tolerate the opposite views and respect other people's opinions, especially those of the political opponents. This is evidence to the maturity of the current Iranian society and generation the continuation of which will have historical and civilization building effects on the country.

2. The Iranians have good reasons to be full of hope these days. Following the unprecedented countrywide celebrations which marked the election win of Mr. Rouhani, they once again took to the streets, but this time to celebrate Iranian soccer team's success in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The soccer win was followed by similar achievements in other sports fields, including by Iranian women's futsal team which ranked the second in Asia for the first time in the country's sports history. Apart from that, the subsequent valuable triumphs and even defeats scored by the national Iranian volleyball team in international competitions and repeated championship of Iranian men's futsal team in Asia were other groundbreaking events which helped to keep up the spirit of hope in the Iranian society. Today, the main losers are those who imagined that by boycotting the political system of Iran they had chosen the best way for demonstrating their protest; an idea which was snubbed by at least 72 percent of the eligible Iranian voters who are now very happy about what they have done.

If Iran's neighboring countries as well as the United States and Europe manage to correctly analyze the message of Iranian people's election turnout and independence, a suitable atmosphere for interaction and further negotiations over a host of issues, including, inter alia, Iran's nuclear energy program, situation in Syria and Afghanistan, and regional energy resources, will be created. As a result, those negotiations will not turn into a zero-sum game and will serve as a means of realizing relative interests of both sides in any future deal and negotiations.


In these days and at the building where my office is located, namely the building of the Center for Strategic Research where Mr. Rouhani is negotiating and consulting with various experts about the best ways of managing the country during the next four years, I see many familiar and unfamiliar faces. They belong to all kinds of political factions, even people from the incumbent administration, who are providing consultation to Mr. Rouhani and doing their best to improve the country's conditions. Such an atmosphere has had no precedence in Iran, at least, during the past two decades and it is a demonstration of the infusion of hope as well as realistic and firm optimism in the viewpoints of both the society, and experts of Iran's domestic and foreign policies. Strangely enough, this is also the first time that in early days of the hot month of July, the temperature in Tehran has not exceeded 37 degrees centigrade yet and you can still feel half-cool breezes which keep up the spirit of the spring in the souls and bodies of the people of Tehran.

... Payvand News - 07/09/13 ... --

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