Opinion: Ambivalent balance for Iran′s Rouhani | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 02.08.2014
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Opinion: Ambivalent balance for Iran's Rouhani

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani is confronted with a phalanx of hardliners. That's why his results have been only moderate. He is depending on the support of the people, says DW's Jamsheed Faroughi.

Iranian society is deeply divided; today, more than ever before. And this divided society elected Hassan Rouhani as their new leader last year. He is viewed as a "man of the center." In today's Iran that is a curse and a blessing at the same time.

It's a curse because all parties are criticizing him and he has enemies on all sides. The hardliners have criticized him because they think he has gone too far. The reformers have criticized him because they think he has not gone far enough. It doesn't matter what he does or says, there is always criticism and quite often from both sides of the political spectrum.

It's a blessing because only the one who is caught between two stools can maintain a certain proximity to both political camps. He is conservative and progressive, traditional and modern - in a way a contradiction. In this he resembles the 'God state' of which he has become president.

Not without reason, a key was the symbol of his election campaign. It has been a symbol that he wants to offer solutions. He presented himself as a real alternative from the center and was surprised by his clear margin of victory and the great expectations awaiting him. As a former national security adviser he has always known that the power of the president is limited in the kingdom of the ayatollahs. It has always been clear to him that the spiritual leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, the ultra conservatives and high-ranking commanders of the Revolutionary Guards have significant influence on the politics.

Jamsheed Faroughi (Foto. DW/Per Henriksen)

Rouhani has to mobilize the masses, says DW's Jamsheed Faroughi

His greatest achievement undoubtedly has been the change of course in the nuclear dispute. Rouhani has led Iran out of the deadlock in nuclear talks by breaking the taboo of direct talks with the archenemy ,America, and by advocating a policy of détente towards the West and Iran's neighbors. An agreement has still not been reached despite constructive negotiations and round table talks, but the chances for a sound agreement have never been as good as they are now.

The limited easing of sanctions followed the beginning of nuclear talks. But, of course, no miracles have happened. The Iranian economy is still in a very poor state. The government hasn't yet managed to control inflation. It was as high as 25 percent in July. The unemployment rate, especially among young people, is still very high. The gap between rich and poor is continuing to grow and corruption is rampant.

In his election campaign Rouhani advocated the release of political prisoners. After his inauguration many prisoners were released ,but the political openness was short lived. Soon there were new arrests. Rouhani wanted to end the house arrest of the opposition leaders Mousavi and Karroubi. But he could not honor this campaign promise. Now lifelong house arrest is under consideration for the two.

Rouhani has spoken of free access to information. In reality, Internet censorship has intensified. He has unsuccessfully tried to legalize the use of social networks, like Facebook, but now, WhatsApp is about to be blocked, like Facebook and Youtube. In his first year in office, there have been fewer public executions ,but the overall number of executions has increased, especially in the provinces.

All this shows that his word has little weight and is accompanied by an expiration date. Rouhani, with the symbolic key in his hands, is standing in front of closed doors, which he is unable to open himself. If Rouhani really wants to achieve something, he has to cooperate more closely with the people who elected him and who still support him. Only by mobilizing the masses can he win the internal power struggle in Iran. Only then, will he have a successful second year in office.

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