Originally published in Foreign Policy Association Blogs
by Reza Akhlaghi
Hassan Rohani, the 65-year-old Western educated cleric and a former chief nuclear negotiator, is the seventh President of the Islamic Republic of Iran since 1979. Iran’s state-run television reported that Mr. Rohani won over 50 percent of the electoral vote. Mr. Rohani ran on a platform of moderation, mending ties with the outside world, and easing social restrictions that are seen widely unpopular among Iran’s overwhelmingly young population. He ran against a panoply of conservative candidates some of whom with openly anti-Western platforms that proved irrelevant in the face of Iran’s economic and international isolation.
A whole range of key priorities awaits president-elect Rohani with the gigantic task of managing high expectations from his supporters who entrusted him with the task of presidency in the face of strong competition from five candidates in a country that is under the toughest international sanctions, declining standards of living, suffering from chronic economic mismanagement, widespread corruption, and seemingly endless waves of brain drain.
Mr. Rohani’s key strategic priorities can be summarized as follows:
- Resolve Iran’s nuclear crisis that is intimately tied to the international sanctions against it;
- Remove or ease economic sanctions on Iran with medical and medicine products and supplies in high priority;
- Offer a social and cultural policy that would include release of political prisoners, removal of restrictions on the press, and encourage greater participation of women in political and economic life of the country;
- Formulate a strategy for the increasing regional sectarian tensions that have the potential to spiral out of control;
- Develop an economic plan with a firm determination for implementing it;
- Provide the right conditions for foreign investment in the face of entrenched economic interests of certain factions.
The above priorities are certainly a Herculean task that requires an amazing sense of political dexterity in maneuvering Iran’s maze of power corridors. Mr. Rohani will also have to manage great expectations from his voters who with their votes underlined the belief that their country is on a wrong path and in great need of an about-face. It remains to be seen how Mr. Rohani is planning to embark on the most challenging part of his job: execution of his plans.