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Iran’s So-Called ‘Moderate’ President Wins Second Election

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Iran’s so-called “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani was re-elected on Friday in what was described as one of the most important elections in the Islamic Republic’s history, but doubts remain as to whether he can or will reform the Islamic Republic.

The incumbent took approximately 57 percent of the vote, according to Iran’s Tasnim news agency. Rouhani’s top rival, the ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raisi, took only 38.5 percent of the vote. By taking more than half of the initial votes, Rouhani effectively prevented a run-off. Iranian media claimed more than 70 percent of eligible voters turned out for the election.

Some Western media outlets hailed Rouhani’s wide victory as a win for Iran’s “moderate” political wing, however, Rouhani will likely face strong opposition from Iran’s radical Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his supporters in the paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

The results of the election shows the failure of the Iran’s Islamic Revolution, according to Heshmat Alavi, an Iranian human rights activist.

“This election, with this outcome, has been an utter failure for the regime apparatus as a whole, and an even more significant defeat for Khamenei himself,” Alavi wrote in a piece for Forbes on Sunday. “The Iran populace showing a general neglect of this election facade and the nationwide boycott is a clear indication of their desire for regime change and an end to the mullahs’ theocracy.”

Alavi also expressed skepticism regarding the claims of high voter turnout.

All candidates seeking office in Iran must be vetted by the ultra-conservative Guardian Council, which bars many true reform candidates from participation. What results are candidates that are generally comparatively moderate to Iran’s radical, ultra conservative faction.

Rouhani was first elected to office in 2013, promising to grow the Iranian economy through engagement with the West. He believed sanctions relief through the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear deal, would help alleviate the beleaguered countries economic woes. Critics within Iran’s radical circles, including Khamenei himself, said improvement to the economy was too slow and attempted to paint the nuclear deal as a failure.

Executions increased under Rouhani’s leadership, despite his attempts to portray himself as a reformer. Additionally, Iran’s ballistic missile program has been greatly expanded and its use of proxy forces in the Middle East has increased regional instability from Yemen to Syria.

Rouhani claimed the election’s result shows that Iran wants to work with the international community and has rejected the hardliners’ desire to stop reform, but his first term raises doubts as to his willingness or ability to make substantive changes.

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