More tweets from the celebration in Iran, going into the wee hours:
(@jadi) June 15, 2013
[I]f the election, which electrified a nation that had lost faith in its electoral process, was a victory for reformers and the middle class, it also served the goals of the supreme leader, restoring at least a patina of legitimacy to the theocratic state, providing a safety valve for a public distressed by years of economic malaise and isolation, and returning a cleric to the presidency. Mr. Ahmadinejad was the first noncleric to hold the presidency, and often clashed with the religious order and its traditionalist allies.
The question for Western capitals is whether a more conciliatory approach can lead to substantive change in the conflict with Iran over its nuclear program. A willingness to talk does not mean a willingness to concede.
But this was no win for Khamenei either:
The election results put the supreme leader under pressure to allow changes to take place, or allow him to make the kind of changes that might be opposed by hard-liners if they controlled all the levers of power. For the supreme leader, a weak loyal president might be less threatening that Mr. Ahmadinejad, who over time alienated the ayatollah as he spread his own power throughout the bureaucracy. The ayatollah had exhorted Iranians to exercise their right to vote. Analysts are predicting at least some change. “There will be moderation in domestic and foreign policy under Mr. Rowhani,” said Saeed Laylaz, an economist and columnist close to the reformist current of thinking. “First we need to form a centrist and moderate government, reconcile domestic disputes, then he can make changes in our foreign policy,” said Mr. Laylaz, who, in a sign of confidence, agreed to be quoted by name.
Omid Memarian thinks the president-elect now has some debts to pay:
Rowhani could have never found much reception within the different layers of the society if two reformist and popular figures, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, former Iranian presidents, had not supported him.
The popularity of Hashemi Rafsanjani and Khatami themselves has soared over the past few years, particularly after they put distance between themselves and Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, following the intense crackdown on the people in the aftermath of the 2009 elections….
That Rowhani’s 18 million votes were followed by a 12 million-vote margin between him and the next candidate showed that Iran’s silent dissidents and suppressed civil society continues to own a very powerful voice. The urban middle-class vote, as well as the blue-collar vote, were cast in favor of Rowhani following the political and social suppression for which the supreme leader is responsible. Not to mention the public realization that the Iranian nuclear program could have continued without sanctions, and that Saeed Jalili, the supreme leader’s representative, has brought economic sanctions to Iran due to his incompetence.
In fact, the Iranian presidential election became a public referendum on the Iranian nuclear program, which for the past several years has been defined as an issue of national security. As such, the Iranian civil society and media have been unable to address and discuss it in their articles and analysis. The election results indicate that the Iranian people have strongly rejected the way the nuclear negotiations, led by Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, have been taking shape.
But as Arash Karami reminds us, if Rouhani pursues reform, success won’t come easy:
Rouhani will be facing a litany of domestic and foreign issues, and on many fronts his efforts will be restrained by [the Supreme Leader], who not only controls foreign policy and the nuclear file but has increasingly interfered in the appointment of key cabinet positions under the administration. …
[S]enior policy analyst at Rand Corporation, Alireza Nader, believes that the cards are stacked against Rouhani in implementing meaningful reform. “It remains to be seen how the ultra-conservatives among the Revolutionary Guards and Basij react to Rouhani. There was a lot of hope that Mohammad Khatami could also solve Iran’s problems when he was elected in 1997. But Khamenei and the Guards managed to constrain him again and again. A key question is whether Khamenei will trust Rouhani … Rouhani is very closely associated with Ayatollah Rafsanjani, who was disqualified from the race [by the Guardian Council which is directly and indirectly appointed by the Supreme Leader]. This may not sit well with many of the Iranian hard-liners.”
Our ongoing coverage of the Iranian election, in reverse chronological order, is here.