With the resounding and sensational victory of the moderate candidate Hassan Rouhani in the presidential elections held last Friday, Iran has been placed on the brink of an extraordinary political transformation. On the cusp of momentous change, the country has been blessed, literally by the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as Rouhani, the only cleric amongst the final six candidates to contest the polls, won over 50 per cent of the votes, with 72 per cent of voters turning out to cast their ballots. Rouhani’s commendable feat has also acted like a soothing balm to the scars of the 2009 elections, which were widely criticised as being rigged and prompted a spontaneous outpouring of rage, leading to waves of protests and demonstrations against the incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, with Rouhani’s firm victory over his conservative rivals, particularly the hardliners who had been wanting to push back Iran into the dark ages, the ‘Green’ movement heralded by the liberals and the youth of Iran has been given a decisive electoral ratification. Rouhani’s triumph is rightly being touted as the victory of the people of Iran, with the reformers and intelligentsia happily welcoming the poll result in unison. Despite Ahmadinejad’s firm opposition and open defiance of the US’ nuclear and defence agenda, he has been rather difficult with his own people, as the widely held demonstrations against him left not a figment of doubt as to his authoritarianism and orthodoxies vis-à-vis Iran’s cultural and social questions. Furthermore, Ahmadinejad quashed political dissent within his own country and his confrontational attitude resulted in intensifying the already negative perceptions about the country in the eyes of the West and also other global powers.
It’s a relief therefore that Hassan Rouhani, a moderate cleric and a nuclear negotiator, favours a policy of political openness and well as reestablishing Iran’s beleaguered relations with the world at large. An experienced diplomat and politician with a strong academic background, Rouhani, however, has a difficult task ahead, that of scrounging a way out of the present stalemate over Iran’s nuclear programme, jiggling out a middle way to restart diplomatic relations so as to facilitate the easing of the mountain of sanctions under which Iran has stayed buried for long. Although the liberal Iranian and global media have been unanimous in hailing the regime change in no uncertain terms, calling the coming periods of political negotiations as a ‘new son of solidarity’, with dollops of rationality and moderation, as well as ‘peace, stability and hope’, much remains to be achieved in order to put Iran back on the track of peaceful development, and reinstituting constructive relationship with the international community. However, it must be remembered that Iran has always maintained good relations with India, and with the victory of the 65-year-old Rouhani, the stage is set for taking the diplomatic relationship between the two countries to a new level of bilateral cooperation and strengthening of economic ties. It is likely that the world will also warm up to Iran as it enters a new phase of political climate, though the nuclear agenda is going to be a tough turf to navigate.