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Iran prepares to sideline Rouhani, the 'moderate' in whom the West invested

    Rouhani
    Rouhani

    In the US, there are the mid-term elections, which mainly tell us how popular the government and its polices are with the American people. In Iran, there are the parliamentary elections, which mainly tell us how popular the Iranian government and its polices are with the regime.

    If the regime is unhappy with the president, it disqualifies his close supporters before the elections. This is despite the fact that the president could be popular with the Iranian people, as was the case with the sixth parliamentary elections under President Khatami in 2000.

    For the upcoming elections this weekend, the majority of reformist candidates who are considered President Hassan Rouhani's allies have been disqualified, as well as many of Mr Rouhani's own candidates who belong to his party. This means the chances of Mr Rouhani's 2013 presidential election allies winning a majority in the both the Parliamentary and Assembly of Experts elections - which take place the at same time - are almost nil. The job of the Assembly is to choose the next Supreme Leader.

    All this may come as a shock to Western leaders who believed that the nuclear agreement would boost the position of Mr Rouhani and his moderate allies at home.

    In both elections, the best Mr Rouhani can hope for is to belong to a powerful minority. In the parliamentary elections, he has teamed up with the moderate conservatives, headed by parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani, while, in the Assembly elections, he has joined a coalition headed by Iran's former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

    Mr Rouhani will be hoping that the next parliament backs his economic policies. However, the Revolutionary Guards (IRCG), with whom Mr Rouhani's relations are strained, could lobby against his economic policies and force delays on major projects.

    In Iran, the president's leverage over foreign policy depends on his leverage at home. So here, too, it's unlikely that, after the next elections, Mr Rouhani will be able to do more than before. The best he can hope for is improved economic relations with the West.

    As for Mr Rafsanjani, some are hoping that his presence at the Assembly of Experts as the head of the moderates list could influence the process of selection of the next supreme leader. That is unlikely. Mr Rafsanjani cannot even get his own son out of prison: how is he going to influence the choice of the next Supreme Leader? The numbers are also against him. It is likely that moderates will make up only 20 per cent of next Assembly.

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