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Russian newspapers comment on the victory of Hassan Rouhani

June 17, 2013, 11:27 UTC+3
Known as a moderate candidate, theologian Hassan Rouhani, 64, showed the result that nobody had expected from him
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Russian newspapers comment on the victory of Hassan Rouhani, who enjoys the reputation of a reformer and a moderate liberal, already in the first round of the Iranian presidential election.

His triumph was predetermined by Iranian people’s being tired of growing economic problems against the background of the country’s isolation and its confrontation with the West, the Kommersant daily believes. But the main thing is that the election was not marred by scandals: the authorities learned a lesson from protests of 2009, when the reelection of conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad brought to the streets thousands of people protesting under the motto “Where are our votes”?

Known as a moderate candidate, theologian Hassan Rouhani, 64, showed the result that nobody had expected from him. Although experts were of the opinion that the second round was unavoidable and Rouhani’s best result would be to qualify for the second round, the only opponent to conservatives on the list of six presidential candidates emerged as a clear winner. The rallying around Rouhani of representatives from a moderate camp of the Iranian policy just days before the election became one of the key factors predetermining his victory, the newspaper writes.

However, the victory of Hassan Rouhani has become possible not only owing to a strategically correct decision of the group of support in the Iranian leadership. The voters saw him as an alternative to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose eight-year rule resulted in a sharp aggravation of the economic situation, international isolation and a growing confrontation with the West.

Many experts have already voiced the opinion that with the coming to power of a new president one should not expect major changes in Tehran’s foreign policy, the Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily writes. Iran’s attitude to the nuclear program and the situation in Syria will remain as it is, according to them. However, according to some assessments by Russian specialists, his rise to power may affect relations with Russia, it may become less important for Iran, the newspaper says.

“The Iranian liberal is a rather relative notion,” the newspaper cites Alexei Malashenko from the scientific council of the Carnegie Moscow Centre. “One way or another, but liberals in the Iranian manner normally gravitate towards a conversation with the West - this was noticed long ago,” he said.

Actually, Washington and Brussels have already sent a clear signal to Tehran, the newspaper said. Thus, the US Department of State announced that it did not rule out direct negotiations with the Iranian authorities on the atomic program. Rouhani harshly criticized outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his anti-Western rhetoric and the lack of flexibility “which became the reason behind international economic sanctions” stifling the Iranian economy.

However, it is na·ve to believe the victory of Rouhani will entail a revolutionary revision of the Iranian nuclear program. As it is known, all issues of Iran’s foreign policy, and all the more the strategically important “atomic project,” depend on top supreme Shiite clergy. While “liberal” Rouhani was for 16 years head of the Supreme National Security Council, subordinated personally to Ayatollah Ali-Khamenei. Besides, the new president will inevitably have to flirt with the conservative circles, maneuvering between the expectations of the West and domestic political realities. “Although Rouhani is open to the world, he will also have to publicly remind that it is not Switzerland that he represents, but Iran - an Islamic state. This is what makes his situation ambivalent,” Alexei Malashenko believes.

Although the president elect can be called “liberal” with certain reservations, Hassan Rouhani has publically spoken in favor of restart of a dialogue with the West, promised to prepare “a charter of civil rights”, release political prisoners, soften censorship as well as revive the economy, the Moskovsky Komsomolets writes.

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