Iran Pulse

Will Rouhani only serve one term as president?

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Article Summary
The publication associated with Iran's Ansar-e Hezbollah argues that President Hassan Rouhani has failed in both his economic and diplomatic promises.

The weekly paper of Iran’s Hezbollah (Ansar-e Hezbollah) argued that President Hassan Rouhani will be the first one-term president in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran. While Iran’s hard-liners have still not grown accustomed to being out of power since the eight years of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency, the article raises valid points about the administration’s stumbling regional diplomacy and criticism over Rouhani’s tight-knight inner circle.  

Yalasarat al-Hussein, the news site of Ansar-e Hezbollah, wrote that Rouhani being a one-term president is both a “wish and a prediction.” The article jokingly said that they hope writing this would not cause them to be closed down by Rouhani’s Culture Ministry. The concern is not out of place, as a number of conservative newspapers have been temporarily suspended by the Rouhani administration.

According to the article, Rouhani has not been able to satisfy either base in Iranian politics, neither the religious nor what the article refers to derisively as the “worldly,” people who care about their material well-being rather than their spiritual well-being. The article presumes that the “materialistic base” in the country is the one who voted for Rouhani in June 2013.

It continued by saying that rents as well as the cost of food, gasoline, natural gas and utilities have increased under Rouhani's presidency, and that there are still no signs of when the international sanctions will be removed. The latest reports state that in accordance with the nuclear deal and Iran’s compliance in reducing its nuclear activities, banking and oil sanctions will be removed Jan. 12, approximately a month later than some analysts had previously expected.

Not only has the Rouhani administration failed to improve the economy, but they have also failed in regional relations, particularly with neighboring Arab countries in the Persian Gulf, the article wrote. Yalasarat references a number of public embarrassments for the administration, such as Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir’s repeated refusals to meet with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the October arrests of Iranian female teachers in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain expelling the Iranian envoy and recalling its own ambassador from Iran. 

The article also alluded to the dysfunction within the administration, accusing Rouhani’s inner circle of having “cut his connection to his Cabinet and not permitting the ministers to meet with the president.” Rather, the article asserted, Rouhani has delegated meetings with the ministers to his special advisers, including his brother Hossein Fereydoun, Akbar Torkan, cultural adviser Hesam al-Din Ashna, spokesman Mohammad-Bagher Nobakht and Chief of Staff Mohammad Nahavandian. Rumors of dysfunction in the administration are not new: In September four ministers, for unknown reasons, felt the need to write Rouhani a detailed letter warning him about serious shortcomings in the economy.

Yalasarat concluded that Iranian voters will not forget these failings, and come June 2017 they will send Rouhani packing. While those elections are still far off and the Rouhani administration still has time to recover economically, the article can also indirectly serve as an attempt to discourage the hopes of the moderate faction ahead of the February 2016 parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections.

The conservative-dominated parliament has played an antagonistic role against the moderate administration, summoning ministers at a record level with the constant threat of impeachment hanging over their heads. At a Cabinet meeting Nov. 18, Rouhani said that the administration is “not pushing for the victory of a special faction” in the elections. But parliamentary elections typically have a lower turnout than presidential elections, and if the moderate faction in Iran hopes to perform well, they will need to encourage a normally hesitant population to show up.

Editor's note: This article has been updated since its initial publication.

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Found in: parliamentary elections, mohammad javad zarif, iranian economy, hezbollah in iran, hassan rouhani, hard-liners, diplomacy

Arash Karami is a contributor to Al-Monitor. On Twitter: @thekarami

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