Rouhani registers for tough election in March
TEHRAN – Agence France-PresseIran’s President Hassan Rouhani registered on April 14 for next month’s election, facing a tougher-than-expected battle thanks to widespread criticism over his handling of the economy.
Rouhani, a politically moderate cleric, inherited an economy in freefall and a country dangerously isolated over its nuclear program when he took power in 2013.
He retains the support of moderate and reformist lawmakers for taming inflation and reaching a landmark nuclear deal with world powers that ended many sanctions.
But disappointment with the 68-year-old’s administration is palpable on the streets of Iran.
Unemployment is stuck at 12 percent, the promised billions in foreign investment have not materialized, and he has failed to ease social restrictions or release political prisoners, including reformist leaders under house arrest for their part in 2009 protests. After registering for the election at the interior ministry, Rouhani pushed back against hardliners who have criticized the nuclear deal and his efforts to reach out to the West.
“The preservation of the [nuclear deal] is one of the most important political and economic issues in the Iranian nation. The stepmothers who repeatedly tried to kill this baby cannot be good custodians for it,” he told reporters.
He said an “unprecedented” $20 billion worth of new projects would be announced next week, which would also see gas production at the South Pars field surpass that of Qatar - which shares the field - for the first time. That follows government plans, outlined this week, to triple or even quadruple cash hand-outs to the poor - a move immediately criticized by opponents as a transparent attempt to buy votes.