This is while all political conditions for the smooth re-election of Rouhani seem to be in place. Indeed, the incumbent is likely to secure a second term in office for five main reasons.
First, the Principlists lack a charismatic face. The reality is that if Ahmadinejad had competed in the May 2017 election, the poll would have become rather exciting while at the same time extremely polarizing. His candidacy would have overshadowed that of any other Principlist candidate. As such, the Principlist movement has effectively lost its ace.
At present, there is simply no figure in the Principlist camp that can be compared to Ahmadinejad in terms of charisma. That is one reason why prominent Tehran University professor Sadegh Zibakalam has stated that under the current conditions, “Even with his hands and feet tied, Rouhani will win votes in the May 2017 elections.”
Second, while the Rouhani administration’s economic performance has not been eye-catching, it has managed to save the country from economic collapse. Indeed, Rouhani has played the role of a physician who is unable to heal a patient but able to prevent the patient’s condition from getting worse. The Islamic Parliament Research Center has estimated economic growth of 6.6% in the current Iranian calendar year (ending March 20, 2017), driven by the rebounding oil sector.
This is while the economy retracted by 6.8% in the Iranian year 1391 (which began on March 20, 2012) and has gradually returned to growth in the three years since. Though Iran’s economic growth is mainly influenced by exogenous factors, to the Iranian public, this rebound is seen as a positive score in the Rouhani administration’s report card.
Third, the supreme leader is not opposed to Rouhani’s re-election. There is no doubt that there are differences between Khamenei and Rouhani on various issues, such as United States’ implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the idea of a similar deal with world powers on regional issues, their interpretation of Islam, their views on late Iranian leader Ruhollah Khomeini’s political and cultural tolerance, and many other issues.