Iran’s new Cabinet offers hope of conciliation: What future for Tehran’s electoral theocracy?

EVENT: 6pm Tues 27 Aug – The good news from Tehran is that Hassan Rouhani, the recently elected new president of Iran, has opted for a cabinet of experienced technocrats. Many of those confirmed last week were people who were purged or isolated during Mahmoud Armadi-Nejad’s confrontational regime.

His ministers, now gone, failed to address the economic turmoil created by United Nations sanctions, and the hardships these caused have led to growing public dissent. Iran, increasingly isolated because of global opposition to its nuclear program, is also unpopular in Europe because of its support for Hezbollah and for Syria’s president, Bashir Al Assad, although it is supported by Russia in the latter cause.

Mr Rouhani has already pleased the West with the appointment of Mohammad Javad Zarif, a veteran diplomat and former ambassador to the UN, as his foreign minister. Even better is his brief to move Iran’s foreign policy from “radicalism” to “moderation and wisdom”. Fluent in English, with a doctorate in international affairs from the University of Denver, Dr Zarif is no pushover, but can be expected to conduct upcoming talks with six major powers in a more positive manner than his predecessor.

All this leads us to be cautiously optimistic, but the fact remains that Iran is still an electoral theocracy. The theocratic foundation of the Islamic Republic still enable the ruling clergy to exert great influence over the electoral process, sabotaging electoral integrity. So what will happen now?

To introduce us to the complexities of the politics of Iran – and possible future scenarios – AIIA NSW is delighted to welcome to the Glover cottages Dr Naser Ghobadzadeh.

Naser Ghobadzadeh is an associate with the Institute for Democracy and Human Rights at the University of Sydney. He completed his PhD on political Islam and the state in Iran at the university. He has worked as editor-in-chief of the foreign policy service at the Iranian Students’ News Agency, communication officer with the United Nations Development Program and head of the Information Resource Centre, UNICEF office in Tehran. His book A Study of People’s Divergence from Ruling Systems scrutinises value changes and their impact on Iran’s politico-religious mosaic.

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