Iranian Conservatives Seem to Have No One to Run Against Rouhani

Hassan_Rouhani_press_conference_after_his_election_as_president_14

Are you tired of reading about American elections, especially considering the awful outcome? Well, take a break by reading about the Iranian one!

Less than three months remain until President Hassan Rouhani, the reformist who came to power in 2013, will have to face his conservative rivals for reelection. If you have followed this blog, you know that I support him, that I was very stoked for his most major achievement which is the nuclear deal, and I will gladly vote for him again. I sincerely think that Rouhani is the greatest president Iran has ever had, and you can expect a review of his first term soon.

But there’s the thing with this upcoming election: not much time is left, and conservatives have still not come up with one or more candidates who will surely run. We still don’t know who’s running against Rouhani.

The simple fact is that the conservatives are in a real crisis and have no real major political figure who can stand a chance against Rouhani. All of them are even unknown figures who have been on the periphery of Iranian politics, or besmirched by economic corruption scandals, or controversial polarizing political figures. The conservative army is an army with no generals and many foot-soldiers.

The conservatives have been trying desperately to reach a consensus and decide on a candidate who will run against Rouhani alone, so that no one splits his vote. Which doesn’t make much sense: unless reformists run a candidate too, and he splits Rouhani’s vote, it won’t matter whether the conservative vote is split or not. They have created a congress encompassing all conservative parties and groups with the aim of deciding on one candidate.

But they haven’t managed that: they keep splintering. Ultra-conservatives splintering from conservatives, then ultra-ultra-conservatives splintering from ultra-conservative, then ultra-ultra-conservative Saeed Jalili (who only got 4 million votes in the last election) splintering from other ultra-ultra-conservatives to create his own party, then suddenly the traditional conservative group Islamic Coalition Party suddenly deciding to go rogue… It’s a clusterfuck. And after all meetings and speeches and splintering, nary a candidate in sight.

I think there’s a deeper lesson to be learned here. When an entire movement defines itself by being subservient to one person in a theocratic dictatorship (the Supreme Leader), and when no person is allowed to rise above the dictator’s shadow, they will have problem producing major figures who can compete with the leader of a reformist movement, the only power of which is derived from popular support. The conservatives are either extremist or corrupt or insignificant figures because only these three types of people would be happy being the lackeys of a dictator. And they won’t be able to compete with a popular competent president.

So, here we are, the state of the race. I will cover the election for you here until it is over. You can expect both news and deeper analysis. But right now, we still don’t know who’s his rival(s).

Image credit: Meghdad Madadi, under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license, via Tasnim News Agency

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