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Media Watch

Iran’s Presidential Elections, June 2013

Issue No. 41
Monday, 08 July 2013

By: J R Philemon Chiru
Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

Note: Hassan Rouhani—considered to be a reformist—won Iran’s eleventh presidential election held on 14 June 2013 without the need for a runoff. He garnered about 51 per cent of total 36.7 million valid votes. The result was declared on 15 June 2013 by the Electoral Commission constituted for the first time by an Act of the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) which approved the law on 17 December 2012. The Guardian Council vetted more than 680 registered candidates and finally cleared eight as eligible contestants and two of them withdrew just before the polls. Given the importance of the outcome of the election in Iran’s relations with the West in particular and the world in general especially on Iran’s nuclear programme,  editorial commentaries from the international and the Middle Eastern media on this event are reproduced here. Editor MEI@ND.
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The Guardian, London, Editorial, 21 May 2013, Tuesday
1. Iran’s Presidential Election: Clearing the Path
The shadow of the unrest that took place after Iran's presidential election in 2009 still hangs heavily over the country. Even though the leaders of the Green movement are today under house arrest, and its membership divided over whether to boycott the presidential elections next month, much of what is happening is a result of the lessons the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, learned then. For the full text

The National, Abu Dhabi, Editorial, 23 May 2013, Thursday
2. An Election with no Choice for Iranians
Iran’s Guardian Council has disqualified several registered candidates from running for the presidency in the June 14 election. Among those banned are Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president, and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, a trusted aide to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the outgoing president. For the full text

The Peninsula, Doha, Editorial, 30 May 2013, Thursday
3. Iran’s Presidential Poll
Iran goes to presidential polls next month with eight candidates cleared by the electoral watchdog Guardian Council. One of the few countries in the Middle East which holds democratically contested elections every four year, Iran’s political system is controversial with rivals calling it theocratic, and dominated by the powerful Supreme Leader and the Guardian Council, a 12-member influential body of theologians appointed by the Supreme Leader and jurists nominated by the judiciary, subject to approval of majlis or parliament. For the full text

Saudi Gazette, Jeddah, 12 June 2013, Wednesday
4. Iran’s Presidential ‘Election’
Regardless of the way Iranians actually vote, Friday’s (14 June) presidential election in Iran is almost certain to produce a conservative winner, loyal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. One of the two remaining contenders with vaguely reformist credentials, Mohammad Reza Aref, yesterday (11 June) quit the race leaving the “moderate” ticket fully in the hands of Hassan Rouhani.  For full the full text

The Guardian, London, Editorial, 12 June 2013, Wednesday
5. Iran: Vote Early, and Vote Often
However far elections in Iran fail the basic test of being free and fair, they are not, paradoxically foregone conclusions. Last month (May 2013), as hundreds registered to stand for the presidential election, everyone groaned as the two heavyweights who could have counterbalanced the overarching power of Iran's supreme leader, former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, either refused to run or were disqualified. Countering rumours that he was too old and thus unfit for the presidency, Rafsanjani revealed this week that the guardian council had been swayed in its deliberations by a senior security figure, reinforcing the notion that his exclusion was politically motivated. So much for the predictable. For the full text

The Washington Post, Washington, Editorial, 13 June 2013, Thursday
6. Iran Votes Friday on a President, but the Ballot is Quite Limited
Iran’s last presidential election four years ago (12 June 2009) offered hope of real change in its theocratic regime, through the reformist Green movement. But if the race to elect a replacement to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad alters anything, it may be for the worse — at least from the West’s point of view. Scarred by the popular uprising of 2009, the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has ensured that only conservative regime loyalists were allowed to enter Friday’s (14 June) first round of elections. For the full text

The New York Times, New York, Editorial, 13 June 2013, Thursday
7. Who Will Succeed President Ahmadinejad
Even before the vote on Friday (14 June), Iran’s presidential election has to be seen as deeply flawed. The Guardian Council that vets candidates disqualified more than 600 potential contenders, including Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former president. Only six names are on the ballot, all men who are acceptable to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s real power. Reformers who led protests after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s fraudulent 2009 re-election remain under house arrest, and there has been a new crackdown on newspapers, political activists and foreign journalists. For the full text

The Peninsula, Doha, Editorial, 14 June 2013, Friday
8. Ballot of Hope
About 50.5 million Iranians are supposed to vote in Iranian presidential elections today. This is not just any election for the Islamic Republic, after the 2009 presidential race saw blood in the streets with a recalcitrant opposition claiming that the vote had been rigged in favour of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to award him a second term. Ahmadinejad is going to be replaced as president in this election as he has completed his tenure, and all eyes are on six men one of whom is going to occupy the chair. For the full text

The Jerusalem Post, Editorial, 16 June 2013, Sunday
9. The Rouhani Challenge
Hassan Rouhani, the winner of Iran’s presidential election, is being touted as a “moderate.” And in some respects this title appears fitting. Of the six candidates vetted by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Rouhani was the most outspokenly critical, injecting a bit of controversy into an otherwise lacklustre presidential campaign. “We will open all the locks which have been fastened upon people’s lives during the past eight years,” Rouhani said during a June 1 speech in Tehran. For the full text

The Peninsula, Doha, Editorial, 16 June 2013, Sunday
10. A New Beginning
Moderate cleric wins Iran’s presidential vote - that’s how the world media hailed the victory of Hassan Rouhani. The headline amply reflects the thinking of our region and the rest of the world on who should rule Iran. The preference is always for a moderate because only moderates can save Iran from a confrontation with the rest of the world. And Rouhani takes charge at a time when Iran badly needs a new direction. He secured 50.6 percent with 18.6 million votes -- three times ahead of the runner-up, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqher Qalibaf. He largely owes his victory to the withdrawal of sole reformist candidate Mohammad Reza Aref three days (11June) before the vote. For the full text

The Daily Star, Beirut, Editorial, 17 June 2013, Monday
11. Window of Hope
Whenever Iran holds a presidential election, the international media provides pundits and experts argue that in the end, one shouldn’t expect too much. After all, the presidency in the Islamic Republic is a mere No. 2 post because the supreme leader, who is by law a religious scholar, wields the decisive say on supremely important matters of state. For the full text

The Asian Age, New Delhi, Editorial, 17 June 2013, Monday
12. Iran Voted for Hope
Hojatoleslam Hassan Rouhani, moderate among Iran’s clerics who rule the country in all but name, was elected Iran’s President on Saturday (15 June) by trouncing hard-line and conservative rivals aligned to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, and securing over 50 per cent of the vote. For the full text

The Nation, Lahore, Editorial, 17 June 2013, Monday
13. A Voice of Moderation
The Iranian presidential elections held on Friday (14 June) have thrown up moderate Hassan Rouhani a clear winner bagging over 50 percent of the total votes cast (36.7 million), outpacing his nearest rival Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf by a three-times high margin. Interestingly, the hard-line negotiator Saeed Jalili, who is 100 percent against détente with Iran’s foes, could barely secure the backing of 11 percent of the voters and came a distant third in the race. According to the Interior Minister, as many as 72.7 percent of the electorate came out to cast their ballot. For the full text

The Guardian, London, Editorial, 17 June 2013, Monday
14. Iran: An Opportunity to be seized
Amid the storm clouds thickening and darkening over Syria, there was one shaft of sunlight at the weekend: the election of a moderate cleric as Iran's president. Whether it is because of the west's bungled intervention in Iraq, or simply the law of unintended consequences, Iran's influence has indisputably grown. Today its decisions affect Arab lives from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates, from the Turkish border to the Gulf. Of all the options available to the US in trying to roll back this power – punitive sanctions, military confrontation or arming the Gulf states – negotiation is still the most attractive. In Hassan Rouhani, a partner for negotiation may have finally arrived. For the full text

The Hindu, Chennai, Editorial, 17 June 2013, Monday
15. Iran’s Golden Moment
The vibrant elections that have unexpectedly thrown up Hassan Rouhani — a moderate cleric — as Iran’s next President have once again exposed those quick to label Iranian democracy a sham. Mr. Rouhani’s victory following an electoral landslide, brushing aside his supposedly favoured conservative rivals, has demonstrated that the expression of popular will and its capacity to breathe fresh life into the system is far from extinguished. These elections are also important for another reason: they impart a sense of closure by healing the wounds left behind by the 2009 presidential elections, which had triggered unprecedented street protests after many Iranians suspected those polls had been rigged to give Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term. Four years on, the Islamic Republic appears more politically unified and ready to engage with the rest of the world. For the full text

The Saudi Gazette, Jeddah, 17 June 2013, Monday
16. Rouhani’s Victory: Message of Change
Hassan Rouhani, variously described as a centrist and moderate, has won the presidential election in Iran by garnering more than 50 percent of the votes. Out of 36,740,156 votes cast, 18,613,329 went to him. “A great political epic has shocked the world,” read a front-page headline in Iranian newspaper Kayhan Saturday. One American newspaper saw in the election result “a striking repudiation of the ultra-conservatives who wield power in Iran.” Both can be dismissed as so much empty talk and wishful thinking. For the full text

Ha'aretz, Tel Aviv, Editorial, 17 June 2013, Monday
17. Give Rouhani a Chance
The prime minister was right when he suggested both to the West and to himself not to get caught up in wishful thinking now that a new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, has been elected. It’s also the advice that the reformers in Iran, who elected him, are giving to themselves. This is not just because the structure of the Iranian regime and the ultimate authority of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will determine far more about Iran’s nuclear moves than will the president. For the full text

The Australian, Sydney, Editorial, 17 June 2013, Monday
18. A Glimmer of Hope in Iran
Hard-line Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei calls the shots on all major decisions, including nuclear development and the pursuit of state-sponsored terrorism, but there can be no overstating the significance of the relatively moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani’s stunning victory in Iran's presidential election. After eight years (2005-2013) of rule by the Holocaust-denying warmonger Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iranians have delivered a powerful repudiation of the nation's ultra-conservative theocratic cabal. For the full text

The Indian Express, New Delhi, Editorial 17 June 2013, Monday
19. The Iran Surprise
With a reputation for pragmatism, Rouhani might well be Iran’s man for the moment. The landslide victory of Hassan Rouhani in Iran’s presidential elections has helped reinforce the political legitimacy of the Islamic Republic. It has also opened the door, a wee bit, for a re-orientation of the nation’s domestic politics, and the exploration of a nuclear accommodation with the US. Few were willing to bet on a credible outcome from these elections, let alone predict a fluent victory for Rouhani, who secured more than 50 per cent of the vote. For the full text

The New York Times, Editorial, 17 June 2013, Monday
20. A Promising Moment in Iran
The election of Hassan Rouhani as Iran’s next president creates an opportunity to move forward on a negotiated agreement to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons programme and to begin to repair three decades of hostility with the United States. The question is whether Mr. Rouhani and President Obama have the political skill and courage to make it happen. For the full text

Chicago Tribune, Editorial, 18 June 2013, Tuesday
21. The People of Iran Say, ‘Give Us a Break’
From the start, Saturday's (15 June) presidential election in Iran had all the signs of a rigged race. In the last one (2009), the government announced the results before the polls had closed. This time the regime disqualified hundreds of candidates, many of them for failure to show enough enthusiasm for the ruling regime. Of the six allowed to compete, only one was seen as even mildly reformist. Opposition groups were so pessimistic about the way the election was done that some advocated a boycott. For the full text

Boston Herald, Editorial, 18 June 2013, Tuesday
22. Iran: New Face, Old Agenda
OK, so the newly elected president of Iran isn’t a hate-spewing, Holocaust denying whack-job like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And sure, that’s a good thing. It speaks to the good sense of the people of Iran who, no doubt, would like their leader not to be a source of international embarrassment. It also is encouraging that Hassan Rouhani, the only cleric in the presidential race, spent much of his first news conference saying things designed to reach out to the West. For the full text

The Dawn, Karachi, Editorial, 18 June 2013, Tuesday
23. A New Beginning: Iran Elects Rouhani
With the election of Hojatoleslam Hassan Rouhani to the presidency, Iranians have made clear their desire for change at the top after eight years of conservative rule under the stewardship of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Though the Guardian Council had limited the field of contenders to six men adhering to varying degrees of conservatism, Mr. Rouhani seemed closest to the reformist camp. Variously labelled as “reform-minded” and “moderate”, the president-elect had nevertheless won the backing of the reformists and so can perhaps be best described as a centrist with conservative leanings. For the full text

The Times of India, New Delhi, Editorial, 18 June 2013, Tuesday
24. Tehran Spring: Iran’s Election Raises Moderate Hopes
The streets that were full of protesters last time (2009) Iran's presidential vote was counted have been packed with parties this time around. Even this time around, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ensured that the strongest of reformist candidates didn't get to compete. As the only cleric among six candidates in the final fray, Hassan Rouhani hasn't been formally aligned with the reformist camp. But as someone who has decried Iran's oppressive "security atmosphere" and isolation, his election offers a ray of hope to a young population that's seen social freedoms and economic opportunities ebb away over Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's two-term rule. That's why they have been singing and dancing on the streets. For the full text

The Washington Post, Editorial, 18 June 2013, Tuesday
25. Iran’s Election Hints Anew at the Desire for Change
Hassan Rouhani will be Iran’s next president not only because he was picked by a majority of Iranian voters but also because the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, chose to accept his victory. That decision surprised us and some Western experts on Iran, but in retrospect there was good reason for it. Had the Islamic regime falsified the results and blocked Mr. Rouhani, it would have risked a repeat of the popular uprising that followed the 2009 election, when followers of reformist candidates concluded — probably rightly — that the re-election of hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been rigged. For the full text

The Jakarta Post, Editorial, 18 June 2013, Tuesday
26. Iran’s Road to Reform
The world has collectively sighed in relief on witnessing the change seeping into Iran following the surprise victory of reformist-backed presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani, although some of Iran’s long-time foes — like Israel — have warned the international community against any wishful thinking about new developments unfolding in the Islamic republic. For the full text

Sydney Morning Herald, Editorial, 18 June 2013, Tuesday
27. Reformist He May Be but Rouhani is No Reason to Rejoice
The election of the apparently moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani as president of Iran seems hopeful but is no reason to rejoice. Beyond Iran's nuclear ambitions, the overwhelmingly Shiite nation's growing role in the intensifying fighting in neighbouring Syria threatens to draw the US even further into what is now a full-scale sectarian conflict with no obvious conclusion. For the full text

The Japan Times, Tokyo, Editorial, 24 June 2013, Monday
28. A Moderate Wins in Tehran
The victory of Mr. Hassan Rouhani in Iran’s presidential election held June 14 has surprised many people in and out of Iran. A moderate, Mr. Rouhani’s win will be seen as a repudiation of the hard-line views of the current president, Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But while there is no doubt that the majority of Iranians have good reason to be unhappy with the current administration in Tehran, it is folly to think that the new president can radically change his country’s course. For the full text

Compiled by J R Philemon Chiru

J R Philemon Chiru is a Doctoral candidate at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Email

As part of its editorial policy, the MEI@ND standardizes spelling and date formats to make the text uniformly accessible and stylistically consistent. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views/positions of the MEI@ND.  Editor, MEI@ND:  P R Kumaraswamy