The Iranian Opportunity
MADRID – Last week, the people of Iran decided to continue along the path toward openness. Fifty-seven percent of voters chose to elect the reformist President Hassan Rouhani to a second term. The rest of the world should welcome Rouhani’s victory as an opportunity further to improve relations with a country that is central to progress toward a more peaceful Middle East.
By winning more than 50% of the vote, Rouhani avoided a second round of voting, just as he did four years ago when he claimed the presidency for the first time. But, unlike in 2013, when his overwhelming victory was a major surprise, most observers considered Rouhani the clear favorite this time around. After all, every Iranian president since 1981 has served two terms in office.
Rouhani’s triumph was likely, but the vote was no mere formality. His main opponent, the hardline conservative Hojatoleslam Ebrahim Raisi, campaigned hard – and had Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, implicitly in his corner. Rouhani’s victory has proven once again that the candidate closest to the supreme leader is not guaranteed victory.