As the 19th May elections are approaching, claims are being made from all factions of the Iranian regime regarding future policies and the future president. The latest comments from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei are regarding Iran’s relationship with the West. He said on state TV earlier this week: “The candidates should promise to focus on national capabilities and domestic capacities to resolve the economic issues ... rather than looking abroad.”
He urges the next President of the Islamic Republic to make Iran become more self-sufficient economically. This is the complete opposite direction that current President Rouhani has taken. Rouhani’s policies were geared towards opening to the West and attracting foreign investment.
Economic recovery has been very slow under President Rouhani even though the opposite was expected. The landmark nuclear deal that was negotiated with the United States and other world powers resulted in the lifting of sanctions that were intended to steady the country’s economy.
Despite the lifting of sanctions, the top banks in the world do not want to do business with the Islamic Republic for numerous reasons. For example, they fear repercussions or penalties that could arise because of the remaining sanctions the US holds over Iran for issues unrelated to the nuclear deal. This has made it very difficult for foreign trade to be rebuilt and it has put off many potential investors.
Khamenei’s comments do not bode well for Rouhani’s chances of staying for another term. His opponent, Ebrahim Raisi, a close ally of the Supreme Leader, has promised to create more than 1.5 million jobs if he is elected. He has already spoken about his intentions to keep the economy local. He said: “We should bring manufacturing enterprises back to production ... and for this we do not need to look to foreigners.”
He also said that the US and the West cannot solve the problems of Iran. He said: “Our problems are not something to be resolved by Americans and Westerners ... Iran's problems can only be solved by the capable hands of domestic experts.”
Other hardliners are hoping that the Supreme Leader’s way of distancing himself from President Rouhani and his policies will play against his chances in the elections. In any case, Iran is known for holding “sham elections” and past elections prove that all candidates are loyal supporters of the regime in one way or another. In other words, whoever becomes president will make no difference to the people of Iran.