Weighing in: Scholars react to Iranian elections

Academics and Politicians have weighed in after initial results showed that Hassan Rohani looked to be heading for victory.

By REUTERS
June 15, 2013 17:22
3 minute read.
Presidential candidate Hassan Rohani casts his ballot during the 2013 Iranian presidential election.

Hassan Rohani votes 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Yalda Moayer)

Academics and Politicians have weighed in after initial results on Saturday showed that moderate cleric Hassan Rohani looked to be heading for an outright victory over conservative rivals.

AHMAD TAVAKOLI, CONSERVATIVE IRANIAN LAWMAKER:


"I am sure that ... this election will be the start of a new era to make up for the damages of the previous years, especially in the last eight years."

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JACK STRAW, BRITISH FORMER FOREIGN SECRETARY (2001-2006):

"What this huge vote of confidence in Dr. Rohani appears to show is a hunger by the Iranian people to break away from the arid and self-defeating approach of the past and for more constructive relations with the West.

"It will be welcome in Western capitals but I don't think anyone should crow about it because it will undermine him."

ALI ANSARI, PROFESSOR OF MODERN HISTORY AT ST. ANDREW'S UNIVERSITY IN SCOTLAND:


"Rohani made lots of promises which he will need to deliver on and I noticed that one of the first demands has been for the release of (reformist leaders held under house arrest) Mousavi and Karoubi. If this happens, in relatively short order, then I think we have finally turned the page. But I will be honest with you, a victory of this nature, i.e. a Rohani landslide, will have to deliver substance not just cosmetics and this requires quite a few people to admit that the last eight years have been an aberration."

TRITA PARSI, WASHINGTON-BASED NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL:

"Contrary to the clear efforts by the ruling elite to secure a conservative victory, the only centrist/reformist candidate in the race appears to have won a stunning victory. If this result stands, the Western narrative stating that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) are all-powerful needs to be revisited."

"Though hardliners remain in control of key aspects of Iran's political system, the centrists and reformists have proven that even when the cards are stacked against them, they can still prevail due to their support among the population.

FARIDEH FARHI, IRAN EXPERT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII:


On Rohani's possible stance on the nuclear issue:

"He doesn't yet know how the other side will respond, mainly the United States and whether the United States will also show flexibility. Rohani would want that kind of flexibility in order to be able to strike a deal."

"They (the Iranian people) decided that the electoral institution is an important institution that should not be given up that easily."

YASMIN ALEM, U.S.-BASED EXPERT ON IRAN'S ELECTORAL SYSTEM:


"What really stood out for me is this dichotomy that exists in the Iranian electorate. At the height of disappointment there's still hope in the Iranian electorate. They'll still come out because they think that they can somehow make a difference. Today's vote for me was really a referendum on the status quo."

ALI VAEZ, IRAN EXPERT AT THE INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP:


"Hassan Rohani's upset victory has effectively redeemed Iran's electoral system, which was tainted after the 2009 presidential poll.

"However, it is important to remember that Iran is governed by complex institutions and competing power centres that inherently favour continuity over radical change."

SHAUL BAKHASH, IRANIAN-BORN PROFESSOR OF HISTORY AT GEORGE MASON UNIVERSITY IN VIRGINIA:


"Based on preliminary results, Rohani's lead is holding. It is striking that between him and Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, who has a strong managerial reputation, they have around 60 percent of the votes. It tells you a great deal about the general sentiments of the country."

SUZANNE MALONEY, SENIOR FELLOW AT THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION:

"Iran appears to be on the verge of shocking the world once again, as a presidential election initially expected to be a preset cakewalk for the pious protégé of the supreme religious leader is moving slowly toward a robust lead for a cleric who has campaigned around a message of hope and change.

"With Rohani leading the vote, the regime's calculation now is whether a run-off campaign involving Saeed Jalili or Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf is worth the risk. A second round would entail an additional week of the kind of exhilarated campaigning ... and ultimately pose a greater risk to the system than a narrow outright victory for Rohani."


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