Moderates gain in Iran’s polls

Dr Musarat Amin

Last Friday Feb 26, 2016 Iranians went to ballots and three main camps— moderates, moderate-conservatives and hardliners are expected to win majority in 290-seat assembly respectively. This election is crucial for the people of Iran and regional geopolitics as after reaching nuclear deal with Washington, potential reformist leaders like Hassan Rouhani would be steering Iranian economy, foreign policy to prosperous tomorrow for its masses. Voters’ turnout has been quite an impressive because of people’s hope for a free and moderate Iran.
This election has got more attention because of the assembly of experts which will choose the next supreme leader of Iran after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. According to current constitution of Iran the real powers lie with the supreme leader not the president. Historically the election to the assembly has been lackluster because of the dominance of hardliners but has caught huge attention because of ailing and 76-year-old supreme leader of Iran.
Since Islamic revolution of 1979, majority of the factions in Iranian politics has been dominated by hardliners. Iran has been under tremendous challenges of survival to its theocratic regime. President Ahmadinejad who ruled Iran from 2005 to 2013 was determined to make nuclear weapons.US diplomatic campaign to reach nuclear deal with him went futile whereas on the contrary, Rouhani is a moderate in his approach and draws a bead on betterment of relations with United States and other developed countries of Europe. Reviving economy and boosting private sector to attract foreign investors is his uppermost priority. Being moderate he would be taking sufficient measures to ease media censorship and loose press controls which would eventually pave way for blooming democratic norms in society.
Since 1979, Iran has been under stiff sanctions from US and these sanctions got further tighter after passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1696 which had disastrous effects on Iran’s petrochemical exports and also crippled banking sector. Doors of International trade and commerce were totally closed for Iran even Iran faced cold shoulder from regional actors as well. Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline fell into abeyance because of US diplomatic pressures not to materialize this project. The wonderment is that despite such crippling sanctions, Iran as a theocratic state survived and it didn’t go bankrupt.
Arab Spring(2011) that toppled & shook regimes could not derail Iran’s stable political system. Current zestfulness in Iranian nation to go to ballot is apparent from high turnout which likely exceeded 70%. The electoral defeat of Yazdi in Tehran and also Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi really concerned cleric circles but NBC News quoted supreme leader of Iran Khamenei saying “I thank Iran’s wise and determined nation … and I hope next Parliament will act responsibly towards people and God, ”.It also indicates even if moderates assume power, Ayatollah Khamenei as a supreme leader would extend his support on domestic, regional and global issues. Fixing most daunting domestic challenges of Iran about jobs, inflation, housing and water management would be comparatively easy to address because of Iran’s recent openness to International market.
Iran is bigger than Iraq, Turkey and Syria combined and according to UNICEF Iran’s youth is 98.8% literate which means Iran has got huge potential to excel in human resource and eventually would attract multinational companies to invest in. The outcome of post-deal bonanza is rapid pouring in of foreign investment from Italy, France and China while other industrialized nations are eager to enter Iran with mega projects. European countries need energy and Iran has the fourth largest oil and second largest gas reserves in the world. After President Xi’s visit, China vowed to increase trade volume to $600billion in the next ten years which certainly would prove a fate changer for Iranian populace. Revivification of Russia as great player in world politics would also benefit Iran as the latter has been playing integral role for both China and Russia’s regional interests. ISIS is enormously grievous for regional peace and decisive action against ISIS is quite possible with proactive support from Tehran. Emergence of moderate Iran would have far reaching effects for regional peace and stability.
— The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Defence and Diplomatic Studies, Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi.