News / Middle East

    Iranians, Observers Wonder How Rowhani Was Allowed to Win

    Iran's President - elect Hasan Rowhani, after speaking at a press conference, in Tehran, June 17, 2013. Iran's President - elect Hasan Rowhani, after speaking at a press conference, in Tehran, June 17, 2013.
    x
    Iran's President - elect Hasan Rowhani, after speaking at a press conference, in Tehran, June 17, 2013.
    Iran's President - elect Hasan Rowhani, after speaking at a press conference, in Tehran, June 17, 2013.
    When tens of thousands of Iranians took to the streets to celebrate Hassan Rowhani's presidential victory last weekend, one chant stood out: "Dictator! Thank you!"

    In the back of their minds, the protesters must have been asking themselves the same thing surprised Iran observers are wondering: Why would Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the "dictator" who has final say on all things in Iran, allow a relative moderate with ties to an archrival to win the presidential election?

    And why, in the first election since allegations of fraud tainted the contentious 2009 vote, would the supreme leader apparently let voters determine the outcome?

    The sense of disbelief over the win by Rowhani, who has close ties to Khamenei rival and former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, appeared to be widespread among celebrants.

    "I'm happy they counted my vote," read one handwritten poster held by a young man in Tehran whose picture was shared on social media.

    In the run-up to the June 14 election, the general consensus among Iran observers was that the Iranian establishment would oppose Rowhani and find a way to elevate one of the handful of conservative candidates to the presidency.

    Hassan Rowhani

    • 64 years old
    • Elected president with slightly more than 50% of the vote
    • Member of the Expediency Discernment Council
    • Served as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council from 1989-2005
    • Member of parliament from 1980-2000
    • Member of the Assembly of Experts since 1999
    • Served as Iran's chief nuclear negotiator before Saeed Jalili
    Conservatives' Failure

    In hindsight, analysts say a number of factors factored into Rowhani's surprising win. Among them were the large turnout, previously undecided voters settling on Rohani, the reemergence of the opposition movement, and the establishment's fear of a repeat of the mass street protests that erupted after the 2009 poll.

    A major factor, analysts suggest, was the conservatives' failure to unite behind a single candidate, which would have prevented their votes from being split among five contestants.

    And political realities played a role in Rowhani's win, including crippling sanctions on the Islamic republic that some believe effectively turned the election into a referendum on Khamenei's hard-line nuclear policies.

    Said Jalili, Iran's top nuclear negotiator and the most hard-line candidate in the race, found himself on the losing end of that referendum. Many Iranians said they voted against Jalili, who parroted some of Khamenei's views in his campaign and was believed to be the supreme leader's preferred choice.

    Rowhani, on the other hand, promised to improve the economy while calling for moderate policies both at home and abroad. He called for an end to Iran's international isolation and linked the importance of Iran's nuclear program to people's everyday lives.

    Regime Insider

    The 64-year-old Rowhani is not a reformist. He is a regime insider who has held top posts in the Islamic republic. Unlike Rafsanjani, who in 2009 expressed support for the Green Opposition movement, Rowhani condemned the protests as a move by "some who had been fooled." But the endorsement of Rowhani by the reformist faction gave him a significant boost among young voters and those hungry for change.

    Alireza Nader, an Iran expert at the Rand Corporation, says Khamenei was apparently willing to accept Rowhani's win because of his profile.

    "After all, he is Khamenei's representative to the Supreme National Security Council," Nader says. "In addition, he was qualified by the Guardians Council, which is very telling. Rafsanjani (whose candidacy was denied) may have been too powerful for Khamenei, but Rowhani may be more pliant."

    Nader says Rowhani can serve as a bridge between the establishment and the reformists and Green Movement.

    "The regime is trying to heal the internal divisions within Iran and alleviate external pressure," Nader says. "Rowhani has a chance to do both, without seeking a wide-ranging transformation of the Islamic republic."

    Eskandar Sadeghi Boroujerdi, a scholar and researcher of modern Iran at the University of Oxford's Queen's College, suggests that Khamenei came to the conclusion that it would have been too costly to deny Rowhani victory.

    "I think, obviously, [Khamenei's office] has [opinion polls]," Boroujerdi says, "and so they have feelers, and they have these sort of things. It would have been much more costly for him [to intervene.] And I think [Khamenei is] not an idiot, he knows how much endorsing Ahmadinejad in 2009 hurt him and cost him a lot."

    Last-Minute Choice

    Momentum for Rowhani grew in the last days of the campaign, reportedly right up to the last moment. A Tehran-based journalist, speaking on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that many people did not decide to vote for Rowhani until election day. Many people, the journalist said, mobilized and encouraged others to vote for Rohani.

    Speaking on June 17 at the Washington-based Stimson Center, Fatemeh Haghighatjou, a prominent former reformist lawmaker, described Rohani's victory as a "welcomed surprise" that created a "win-win situation for all."

    "The supreme leader won by seeing a higher rate of participation in order to increase his legitimacy and, for the first time, he extended his call to vote to those who do not believe in the regime itself," Haghighatjou said. "The people won because their vote was counted and we are seeing postelection celebrations. The election showed the Green Movement is alive and, most importantly, the people of Iran spoke out."

    Rowhani himself gave credit for this victory to the Iranian people.

    During his first press conference, held June 17 in Tehran, a female reporter told him he had restored hope to Iran.

    "The people brought back hope," replied a smiling Rowhani.

    This article originally appeared at RFE/RL

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Trans-Adriatic Pipeline to Boost European Energy Security

    $4.5 billion-pipeline will become operational in 2020 and will deliver gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field to southern Italy

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Annual festival showcases the region's harvested agriculture, fine wines and offers opportunities to experience the gentle breeze in a hot air balloon flight

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: David from: Iran
    June 21, 2013 10:42 AM
    Iranian people expect a lot from Rowhani's government. Maybe they expect a miracle to happen because they suffered sooooo much during Ahmadinejad's tenure. Not only Iranians but the world expects a significant change form Rowhani. Wish him luck
    In Response

    by: mehrdad from: earth
    June 24, 2013 5:06 AM
    There were millions of people who were disagree with Mr Rohani (and millions who were agree ) because of reasons which seemed right ,but now his movements are accepted by most of those millions ,still we should wait and see where is the end of this road. about the people and their wishes, yes they had a lot of problem which was because of the politics of the inside and outside,there were a lot of country who helped this process by making a harder life for Iranians ,

    by: jack from: prc
    June 21, 2013 9:00 AM
    Economic reason,it also need w.bone.keep touch should soften it and it's people should think the national happiness higher than unfriendly doer.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora