Elections in Iran: view from Europe

Elections in Iran: view from Europe

Presidential elections are held in Iran today. We'll see which direction will this Middle Eastern republic choose based on the results. European Union doesn't hide its interest in Iranian internal political situation, since the expansion of European capital to the Iranian market depends on the outcome of today's elections.

Europe also doesn't hide that current president Hassan Rouhani is a preferable candidate, since his name is closely associated with signing of the nuclear deal between six mediators and Iran. Chairman of the German-Iranian parliamentary friendship group, Rolf Mutzenich, believes that the win of Rouhani's opponent, ultra-conservative Ebrahim Raisi, as well as forces that support him, are the worst possible development. "Raisi is supported by groups that put massive pressure on reformist forces. From what I heard and read, it seems that Rouhani will be lesser evil and, perhaps, he will be able to overcome structural deficits in the Iranian economy and society during the second term. Although it's extremely difficult within the framework of this political system," German deputy said.

Rolf Mutzenich thinks that high expectations of Iranian society from the nuclear deal with the West could ultimately become an obstacle to Rouhani's re-election. "We also see that the gap between poor and rich in Iran has increased, and Rouhani's economic policy deserves criticism. On the other hand, Raisi has no economic concept for the country that has so much potential for reforms," he noted.

Cornelius Adebar, expert of the German Council on Foreign Relations, also called President Hassan Rouhani a favorite of the election race in his recent article, despite "modest results" of his first term. He notes that Rouhani's candidacy is supported by the influential speaker of the Iranian parliament Ali Larijani and a wide part of the elite, from moderate conservatives to technocrats and reformists. In addition, so far all presidents of the Islamic Republic of Iran were elected for two terms. At the same time, expert warns that even if Rouhani is re-elected for a second term, a number of serious problems in European-Iranian relations must be addressed and won't be removed from the agenda. First of all, he mentioned the role of Tehran in the Syrian conflict, as well as Iran-Saudi Arabia fight for regional domination. Likewise, Rouhani's re-election won't mean that trans-Atlantic contradictions between Europeans and Americans over relations with Iran will be over. "For many American political scientists, the difference between 'good Iran', who complies with the nuclear deal, and" 'bad Iran', whose regional interests often contradict American interests, is casuistic. In the end, they want to achieve a regime change in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and they see sanctions or even military provocations as acceptable methods, as tools that can help to achieve this. Such turn of events will signal the end of nuclear agreements reached in 2015. 

The expert outlined an even more pessimistic forecast in case elections will end with the victory of one of conservative candidates - Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf or Ebrahim Raisi. According to Cornelius Adebar, such scenario will lead to the activization of "hawks" in America's Iranian policy, and political scientist doesn't see any chance of preserving the nuclear deal in the long term. "In any case, economic activity of European enterprises in the country will become unlikely, if not impossible, which will deprive Europeans of the opportunity to influence Iran through cooperation," he stressed.

In other words, no matter what outcome of the presidential vote in Iran will be, the EU's positions in the dialogue with Iran, despite rapprochement that began after 2015, have no solid foundation and depend, above all, on internal political developments in the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States. In this situation, actual role of the European Union can be compared to the role of a broker, whose prospect of obtaining an impressive commission depends on how two clients feel.