Hassan Rouhani won Iran’s presidential elections by posing as the voice of protest and change. Though previously considered a conservative he ran a campaign with strong reformist flavour. Rouhani himself does not use the terms “conservative” and “reformist” but defines himself as a moderate. He represents a middle-of-the-road current in Iranian politics which deplores the country’s development under President Ahmadinejad. Rouhani’s victory will empower this centrist political current. However, the 2013 election has also brought the centrists closer to the reformists. There is, hence, a new momentum for reform.
Rouhani pledges to save Iran from the damages of “extremism”. It means saving the economy, reviving public trust and re-creating cooperative ties with the world. A key factor that will determine his success is whether or not he can assure the support of the Leader. This report argues that Khamenei may in fact see opportunities in Rouhani’s presidency, as it can serve to defuse internal and external tensions. Rouhani’s background is as suited for mending fences within the system as it is for negotiating with the international community. However, the ability to change will depend on Khamenei holding the security apparatus in line, external developments and the demands of protestors.
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