By Mahmood Monshipouri & Mehdi Zakerian
Georgetown Journal of International Affairs
Iran’s 2016 elections, both for parliament and the Assembly of Experts, offer hopeful lessons for the future direction of the country’s foreign policy. They hold significant implications for the re-election of President Hassan Rouhani in 2017 and will likely further the possibility of Iranian markets opening up to Western investments. The urgency surrounding Iran’s economic difficulties, however, is increasingly apparent – particularly considering how important economic crises have historically been in driving the country’s politics.
Iranian politics is not a zero-sum game. Elections are emblematic of political trends in ways that exceed the institutions they occupy. Iranians have consistently valued the opportunity to articulate their political views via voting, despite the fact that their political participation has not always yielded the desired results. During the 2016 elections, Iranian voters had the choice of voting for either a radical or a moderate response to the country’s wide range of internal and external challenges. Ultimately, Iranians gave the Zarif-Rouhani team their seal of approval, allowing the duo to mitigate Iran’s traditional enmity with the United States and rapprochement with the West. In some respects, these elections were a testament to the pragmatism, compromise, and dialogue that previous presidents — namely, Presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami — embarked upon.
Iran’s 2016 election results also act as the Iranian peoples’ stamp of approval for the recent nuclear deal, with many in Iran now hoping that the nuclear deal paves the way to more amenable relations with the West. The electorate has traditionally blamed the country’s deteriorating economic conditions on Iran’s pariah status, caused in part by years of crippling sanctions imposed by the West and also in part by the Ahmadinejad administration’s mismanaged policies.
Picture: Adam Jones [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons