May 25, 2017 0405 GMT
The Reformists have introduced another presidential nominee, Es-haq Jahangiri, who can promote the Reformist and Moderate discourses and shed light on the efforts made by the Rouhani government.
Rouhani has made great accomplishments in the last four years. If he can elaborate on these achievements, he will be able to secure victory in the May 19 presidential race.
The conclusion of the nuclear deal with major world powers is the most remarkable achievement of the incumbent administration, which helped end Iran’s international isolation and prepared the grounds for Iran’s relative reintegration into the international community. However, his government has lacked cohesion in dealing with some of the domestic issues, which in many cases were beyond his control or prerogatives.
On the one hand, Rouhani’s opponents have highlighted such issues to bring pressure on his government and, on the other hand, they have resorted to populist policies to win the votes of the rural voters and those of the lower class. They will chant populist slogans to create an anti-Rouhani ambience in the presidential debates.
By capitalizing on the government’s weaknesses in certain areas, which were out of the president’s control, the opponents will try to encourage undecided voters to cast their ballots in favor of themselves. Indeed, the Iranian people are very well aware of the fact that the president’s powers are limited. In certain cases, the president is not in a position to decide about specific issues. Therefore, if the opponents try to tarnish Rouhani’s image by resorting to such tactics, it will definitely boomerang and will add to his popularity; the undecided voters will become more eager to vote for him. If they don’t resort to such tactics, however, they cannot tarnish Rouhani’s popularity. Indeed they are caught on the horns of a dilemma.
Despite the fact that some of their demands have not been met by the government, the Reformists are resolute to back Rouhani.
At the same time, the wise and logical management approach adopted by the incumbent president as well as the conclusion of the nuclear deal have already strengthened his position among the lower, middle and upper classes, and the intellectuals, who are considered to be a reference group and can leave their strong impact on other voters.
Moreover, without exception, Rouhani’s Conservative rivals are supporters of the previous administration, even though they may deny it. Hence, instead of criticizing Rouhani, they must explain why they were silent vis-à-vis Ahmadinejad government’s measures that wreaked havoc with the country for eight years.
In fact, most voters are well aware of populist policies, such as the distribution of potatoes on the eve of elections, bringing the oil income to the people’s table or making hollow promises of increasing subsidies, etc. At the same time, although the people may not be satisfied with some of his economic policies, they are happy with the overall performance of the government for having reined in the devastative policies of the former administration. This is enough to defend Rouhani’s performance. They believe that, despite the shortcomings, the country’s management has been on the right track.