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Revolution, Evolution, Atavism!

In an article published in The Indian Express daily on June 30, 2021, Ramin Jahanbegloo stated that Ebrahim Raisi’s election as the President of Iran “represents a return to ideological moorings of 1979 Islamic Revolution”. Jahanbegloo – the Noor-York Chair in Islamic Studies, York University, Toronto, and Professor, Vice Dean and Director of Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Peace at Jindal Global University – wrote: “The new president knows well that he will not be able to restore the regime’s Popular Legitimacy, but he will try to deliver tangible improvement in governance in order to prevent the ship from sinking.

In fact, how the Islamic Republic of Iran will look like after August 3 (2021) when principalist Raisi will take over the Presidential Mandate from reformist Hassan Rouhani, remains a debated topic among Foreign Policy analysts. The way the Islamic Republic’s political and economic affairs are to be approached in the next four years will depend a lot on the circle to which the newly-elected President will belong.

Hassan Rouhani (L) & Ebrahim Raisi (R)

Raisi is part of the conservative side of Iranian Politics, and after his past in the Iranian Judiciary, he is perceived as a Revolutionary Hardliner. During his term as President, Raisi would have to find the perfect formula to satisfy the conservative political base of which he is part of, and also to respond to the majority of the Iranian population that has shown less appetite over the years for the revolutionary zeal that has petrified the National Economy, caused diplomatic isolation, and led to the emergence of intrusive laws in their daily lives.

President-elect Raisi would have a choice between two political approaches. He could choose a more inclusive policy, involving both technocrats and figures from the moderate camp in search of finding compromise, or he could follow exclusively his conservative line, especially his campaign team, signaling the continuation of economic decline and political isolation. Raisi has declared that his future administration would be different from the team that followed him during the campaign, with the selection being made on merit and taking into account the National Interests.

Raisi

On Foreign Affairs, Raisi, possibly, will not deviate much from the foreign policy agenda of his predecessor Rouhani (despite his background predicting otherwise), making public his support for Iran’s return to the Nuclear Deal and the normalisation of relations with Saudi Arabia.

Economically, Raisi may well follow a Liberal Stance, declaring himself in favour of attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), increased privatisation, a cooling of government intervention in economic affairs and better economic management based on market forces. Else, Raisi’s inability to manage the State’s economic and political affairs in a satisfactory manner could undermine his image and throw him into a political abyss.

Azadi Tower in Tehran

In the eyes of many Iranian and international observers, the Presidential Election was nothing but an engineered selection by the Guardian Council, a 12-member body of jurists and clerics that is closely aligned with the office of the Supreme Leader. The President-elect’s main challenge is to protect and sustain the ideological framework of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, while trying to respond to the general needs of the larger part of the suffering Iranian population. The most important domestic issue is that the reform movements have been marginalised. It indicates political mismanagement and economic corruption, with the international issue being following the directives of Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei on Nuclear Agreements with the US and Europe.

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