Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, August 08, 2013

The tone is different. Will government work differently?

The mainstream journalists seem to agree. Hassan Rohani sounds more comfortable than his predecessor.

Iran’s new president, Smoother operator: Hassan Rohani strikes a liberal tone as he ascends to the presidency
Hassan Rohani
SINCE his election on June 14th, the Iranian president-elect has pleased almost everyone except diehard conservatives, who lost the vote. In several public statements before his inauguration on August 4th he promised reforms desired by many Iranians. “A strong government does not mean a government that interferes and intervenes in all affairs,” he said in a speech to clergy…

The president-elect also talked of lifting or reducing internet censorship, a big bugbear for Iran’s computer-literate people. “Gone are the days when a wall could be built around the country. Today there are no more walls,” he said on state-run television…

Though wary after eight years of conservative rule under his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, ordinary Iranians have largely welcomed the new tone. Educated in part at Glasgow’s Caledonian University, Mr Rohani has also raised modest hopes in Western capitals…

How much of this is window-dressing by an unpopular autocratic elite? Ultimate power in the Islamic republic lies not with the president but the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei. If Mr Rohani is to have much impact, he will have to accommodate him…

Hints of change appeared in July. The once-feared morality police have all but vanished from the streets of Tehran, the capital. The usually truculent chief of police… has admitted that forcing confessions was common among some officers and vowed to dismiss those responsible… But with the economy in the doldrums owing to Western sanctions, Mr Rohani will find it hard to sustain his popularity. Greater transparency will only get him so far.

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