Political Shakeup in Iran, But Expect President Rouhani to Stay

Really moderate, or just for show? Iranian President Rouhani. Illustrative. FEMA/Marty Bahamonde.

Really moderate, or just for show? Iranian President Rouhani. Illustrative. FEMA/Marty Bahamonde.

Roughly seven months before the next presidential elections in Iran, and two members of President Hassan Rouhani have resigned. Signs of political upheaval that could see the chief Iranian proponent of the nuclear deal removed from power? Not likely.

The Iranian Fars News Agency reported that Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati and Sports and Youth Minister Mahmoud Goodarzi resigned on Tuesday. Fars noted in their report that the ministers had come to power with Rouhani in 2013, subtly hinting at trouble for the Iranian president—who has the backing of Iran’s extreme Supreme Leader but puts on a more West-friendly tone that has been critiqued by hardliners. But don’t expect the Iranians to abandon Rouhani for someone like the more obviously extreme Mahmoud Ahmadinejad—mostly because Ahmadinejad is not running.

Al-Monitor, a Middle East analysis news group, posted a pair of articles one month apart on Rouhani’s political position that pointed to very different futures. The key difference is that the first article, “Why Rouhani may become Iran’s first one-term president” was released prior to the decision by Ahmadinejad not to run in the May 2017 elections.

The lack of a viable opponent to lead the hardliners against Rouhani is one signal pointing to his return to power, according to Ali Omidi in his article, “Five reasons Rouhani will be president for another term.”

Another key component in favor of Rouhani is the stabilizing Iranian economy. While it’s not great, and certainly not good for everyone, it has improved enough to keep Rouhani as president.

And while the latest departures from Rouhani’s cabinet might indicate otherwise, Iranian economist Saeed Laylaz was quoted by Al-Monitor as pointing out that Rouhani’s political forces did well in the February parliamentary elections. This, Laylaz said, shows the Iranian people are “content with his management.”

Not that the people’s will in Iran is what’s most important for a country managed by a dictator. But Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei was the one who convinced Ahmadinejad not to run, according to The Voice of America (VOA) News.

So with no clear opposition, expect Rouhani to stay, along with the façade of being amenable to the West. He just won’t be there with all the ministers who joined him four years ago.

(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, October 18, 2016)

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