Iran af­ter the elec­tions

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The re­cent elec­tions in the Is­lamic Re­pub­lic of Iran could be con­sid­ered a turn­ing point in the his­tory of the coun­try. The elec­tions un­hesi­tat­ingly ap­proved Pres­i­dent Rouhani’s mod­er­ate pol­icy which achieved the lift­ing of the sanc­tions af­ter the con­clu­sion of the agree­ment with the EU3+3 over its nu­clear pro­gramme. The re­sound­ing vic­tory of the re­formists was a vote of con­fi­dence in his vi­sion of a great Iran, af­ter years of pres­sures and tough sanc­tions.

In a twin elec­tion for the par­lia­ment and the As­sem­bly of Ex­perts, a le­gal body who elect the Supreme Leader, Ruhani and his al­lies won 16 out of the 16 Tehran seats in the 88mem­ber as­sem­bly, while can­di­dates on the re­formist list took all 30 par­lia­men­tary seats in the Tehran con­stituency. It is worth men­tion­ing that the chair­man of the As­sem­bly of Ex­perts, Mo­ham­mad Yazdi, lost his seat as did Mo­ham­mad Mes­bah, the spir­i­tual men­tor of for­mer con­ser­va­tive Pres­i­dent Ah­madine­jad. Among the elected MPs, there are some women as well, even though this could not be good news for cer­tain ul­tra-con­ser­va­tives in the political spec­trum.

In an elec­tion of high stakes, the huge turnout, in­clud­ing many young vot­ers, is a sig­nif­i­cant sign of the wish for change. Th­ese young peo­ple ex­pect in the post-sanc­tions Iran that for­eign in­vest­ment will bring more jobs and bet­ter liv­ing stan­dards as a re­sult of eco­nomic growth. The chal­lenge now is in­ter­nal lib­er­al­i­sa­tion which is sought by re­formists through so­cial and eco­nomic free­doms.

I was re­cently in Tehran. Talk­ing to peo­ple di­rectly, I felt such a de­mand by the young gen­er­a­tion. How­ever, they have no prob­lem to ex­press their opin­ion freely, and this was in­ter­est­ing and im­por­tant. For ex­am­ple, they were not happy with the process of vet­ting elec­toral can­di­dates that has led to the ex­clu­sion of a good num­ber of can­di­dates, mostly claimed to be re­formists. Prom­i­nent con­ser­va­tives op­pose the eco­nomic re­forms pro­posed by the govern­ment and the open­ing up to the west.

On the other hand, the highly ed­u­cated Ira­ni­ans, their hos­pi­tal­ity and open­ness to the for­eign­ers left me greatly im­pressed. This was the case when I de­liv­ered a speech at the In­sti­tute for Political and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies on “Middle East­ern de­vel­op­ments and the Cyprus prob­lem”. Mem­bers of this high-cal­i­bre think thank put per­ti­nent ques­tions and made com­ments to the point. The stan­dard of jour­nal­ism was also im­pres­sive. I vis­ited some of the me­dia in­clud­ing the English TV chan­nel called Press TV, News Agency and a news­pa­per. I was touched when I was given a copy of the news­pa­per for the blind (Iran sepid) and I was told that this is a daily news­pa­per. In the mag­nif­i­cent build­ing of the For­eign Min­istry I had meet­ings with the Re­gional Di­rec­tor and other sea­soned di­plo­mats, ex­chang­ing views on our bi­lat­eral re­la­tions which is on the right track. Al­ready, our For­eign Min­is­ter Ioan­nis Ka­soulides and Trade Min­is­ter Ge­or­gios Lakkotrypis vis­ited Tehran, while the Ira­nian Min­is­ter of Jus­tice and high rank­ing of­fi­cials from the For­eign Min­istry, the min­istries of Fi­nance, Higher Education and So­cial Wel­fare of Iran have vis­ited Nicosia. It is my ed­u­cated guess that the visit of Pres­i­dent Anas­tasi­ades will not be long.

Com­ing now to the political di­men­sions of the out­come of the first elec­tion since the nu­clear deal, we ob­serve that a strong and re­formist Iran will adopt a more dy­namic for­eign pol­icy in the re­gion, where it could an­tag­o­nise Saudi Ara­bia even more. Supremacy in the Middle East is the ap­ple of dis­cord.

Ac­cep­tance of Iran by the West as well as the East will make life dif­fi­cult for Turkey and Saudi Ara­bia, as they sup­port op­pos­ing sides in Syria’s civil war. More­over, Saudi Ara­bia fears be­ing re­placed by Iran as the US pri­mary Per­sian Gulf ally. Obama’s state­ment that the nu­clear agree­ment is “a very good deal that achieves one of our most crit­i­cal se­cu­rity ob­jec­tives” points to this pos­si­bil­ity.

We should be as­sured of one thing. In the years to come, the re­gion and the world will feel the im­pact of the re­cent elec­tions in Tehran, es­pe­cially if the ex­ist­ing trend could be con­tin­ued up to the Pres­i­den­tial elec­tions of 2017 in Iran.

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