How Donald Trump’s erratic foreign policy ensured a hardliner was elected in Iran

EBRAHIM Raisi’s mandate as President-Elect came about as a result of Donald Trump’s “antagonism” in the White House, an expert has said.

Elected on a historically low turnout, the conservative – said to be close to the Supreme Leader – came into power after eight years of his more moderate predecessor temporarily improved relations with the West.

He received 72 per cent of the vote on Iran’s lowest ever electoral turnout – a sign that, much like in the UK and the US, the electorate see little reason to turn up to the ballot box.

However, Dr Arshin Adib-Moghaddam of SOAS University told Redaction Report that Raisi’s overwhelming mandate among the people who did vote came about because of Trump.

By revoking the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he ensured Rouhani’s flagship achievement had been negated, creating apathy.

“The turnout was low in comparison to previous elections in Iran, but not in terms of international standards,” he said.

“Raisi benefited from the antagonism of the Trump Presidency which destroyed the legacy of the Rouhani administration and dienchanted the Iranian middle class who are the natural constituency of the pragmatists and reformists.”

READ MORE: Hardliner’ Raisi will not ‘alter radically’ from Rouhani’s course in the Middle East

Rouhani, elected in 2013 on a moderate slate, was tipped to steady a nation decimated by sanctions and aggressive adversaries.

However, through a mixture of ineffective governance, continued sanctions after the crumbling of the JCPOA and the harm caused by Covid-19, Iranians appeared ready for a return to a hardliner President.

There was also the issue of social reforms – Rouhani did not implement the same ideology as Mohammad Khatami, despite his campaign promises.

Dr Adib-Moghaddam added: “Rouhani failed to institute the social reforms that he promised which has lead to voter apathy among many Iranians.

“Lastly, the call to boycott the elections by some reformists and other disqualified candidates, together with the Covid effect gave impetus to rallying Raisi’s conservative electoral base, as the right-wing everywhere is always also strictly organised and ideologically motivated to vote.”

It means that, despite an ailing economy, even those who voted for Raisi don’t expect a miraculous turnaround.

The structure – mainly state-driven – is being propped up by ordinary Iranians, many of whom are highly-motivated to bring their nation back from the brink.

According to a write-up by the Atlantic Council, Raisi committed to giving “low-interest loans to poor households in the lower half of income distribution; increasing government subsidies for health care and decreasing the share of households in medical and health expenditures from 43 percent to 20 percent; constructing four million houses; creating four million jobs and giving low-income people and graduates with tertiary degrees priority; and decreasing the rent from 50 percent to 30 percent.”

With a precarious inflation situation, however, it is unclear whether any of this can be enacted unless sanctions are removed and the economy is allowed to breath again.

Dr Adib-Moghaddam concluded: “Iran has a highly educated, highly skilled population and it is them who are making ends meet despite of the incompetence of the state.

“The Iranian economy, then, is driven by the entrepreneurship and creativity of ordinary Iranians. They will continue to grow the Iranian economy against all odds.

“I don’t deem Raisi much more competent to reform the economy in comparison to Rouhani.

Featured Image: Mehr News Agency @WikimediaCommons

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