May 26, 2017


The triumph of Iran's liberals (The Economist, May 25th 2017)

WHILE the leader of the free world bopped with sword-waving Arab princes and denounced the ancient Persian enemy, Iranian voters on the other side of the Gulf danced for detente. Men and women packed the streets countrywide, revelling most of the night. They were celebrating the re-election of President Hassan Rouhani. They cheered his vision of opening Iran to the West and his success in trouncing Iran's isolationists and hardliners, championed by Ebrahim Raisi, who mustered only 38% of the vote on May 19th against Mr Rouhani's 57%. In local elections on the same day, the hardliners were beaten in all Tehran's 21 seats.

Defeat is growing familiar to the hardliners. The last time they won was in the parliamentary election of 2012, and that they owed to a mass boycott by reformists. This time the hardliners campaigned particularly hard because they sensed they were not only picking a president, but also, perhaps, the next supreme leader (a more powerful post). The incumbent, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is 77. This presidential election may be his last. Formally, the Assembly of Experts selects a successor from among its 88 Muslim scholars. But the last time it did so, in 1989, it picked the then president. "The vote isn't just about four years of presidency," says a confidant of Mr Khamenei. "It's about Iran's future for 40 years."  [...]

Within hours of his victory, reformists whom the authorities had detained in the run-up to the election were released. His advisers also predict that he will appoint his first female minister, and perhaps even the Islamic Republic's first-ever Sunni one. More radical change as well, they say, could be coming.

Posted by at May 26, 2017 8:46 AM