Re-elected Rouhani now stuck in ‘Middle-Class Trap’

By Saeid Jafari, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

While President Hassan Rouhani focused on Iran’s educated middle class ahead of the May 19 vote, his conservative rivals targeted the poor.

Having achieved an impressive victory, Rouhani now faces the challenge of maintaining this enormous asset, namely the Reform and moderation movement. Failing to do so could mean a return of hard-liners to power, as in 2005, when then-Reformist President Mohammad Khatami was succeeded by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In his first campaign documentary, which aired on state television May 3, conservative presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi tried to concentrate on the vulnerable social classes. The documentary, dubbed “The People’s Concert,” attempted to take the focus off of concert cancellations as a result of pressure by conservative clerics and instead give the sense that jobs and housing are more important.

In the documentary, Raisi said, “Are concerts really the people’s problem? Don’t people laugh at us? Our workers are unemployed. They have no bread or homes. And then we talk of concerts?”

In contrast, Rouhani emphasized the values largely espoused by the middle class. His first campaign documentary, which was aired May 6, rather than showing images of villagers, slum dwellers or the vulnerable social classes, began with the topic of free speech and university students voicing their criticisms. He also spoke about the environment and the measures taken by his first-term administration to revive Lake Orumiyeh in northwest Iran or solve the problem of a dust storm in the southwestern province of Khuzestan.

In addition, he referred to his administration’s extensive diplomatic exchanges with the world — issues that were all of interest to the youth and the educated middle class. His special focus on this part of society prompted even some of his supporters to charge that his campaign was too elitist.

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