It's official: Iran will elect a 'moderate' president
Businessweek calls him a "reformist." Most other media outlets are calling presidential candidate Hassan Rohani a "moderate."
I suppose when the mainstream is made up of clerical fascists, anyone with an ounce of sanity might be considered "moderate." But, in truth, what makes an Iranian "moderate?" If you ask Rohani, he will still be in favor of wiping Israel off the map, spreading Islam around the world, destroying the West, and denying women any rights.
Yeah - a real moderate, that one.
Rohani's wide early margin revealed a major reservoir of pro-reform sentiment whereby many voters seized a chance to repudiate the dominant hardline elite over Iran's economic woes, international isolation and crackdowns on personal freedoms despite restrictions on candidate choice and campaigning.
If he wins, Rohani, a moderate who is a former chief nuclear negotiator known for his conciliatory approach, has signaled he will promote a foreign policy based on "constructive interaction with the world" and enact a "civil rights charter" at home.
In an apparent attempt to convey political continuity to both domestic opponents and Western adversaries, Khamenei said that whatever the result of Friday's election, it would be a vote of confidence in the 34-year-old Islamic Republic.
"A vote for any of these candidates is a vote for the Islamic Republic and a vote of confidence in the system," the hardline clerical leader's official Twitter account said.
With some 23 million votes counted from the 50-million-strong electorate, Rohani had tallied 51.07 percent of all ballots cast, Iran's interior minister said. That would be enough to avoid a second-round run-off on June 21.
Rohani's nearest rival was conservative Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, a long way behind with 16.3 percent. Other hardline candidates close to Khamenei, including current nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, scored even lower.
British former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who dealt with Rohani during nuclear negotiations between 2003 and 2005, called him a "very experienced diplomat and politician".
"This is a remarkable and welcome result so far and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that there will be no jiggery-pokery with the final result," Straw told Reuters, alluding to accusations of widespread rigging in the 2009 election.
"What this huge vote of confidence in Doctor Rohani appears to show is a hunger by the Iranian people to break away from the arid and self-defeating approach of the past and for more constructive relations with the West," he said.
"On a personal level I found him warm and engaging. He is a strong Iranian patriot and he was tough, but fair to deal with and always on top of his brief."
Suzanne Maloney, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said Iran "appears to be on the verge of shocking the world".
What would really be "shocking" is if establishment foreign policy nerds like Shaw and Maloney judged Rohani for what he actually believes, not what their wishful thinking would have him be. There is no such thing as a moderate in the cut-throat world of Iranian politics - being accused of moderation would end any politician's career and may land him in jail - and people who make that determination in the west are only kidding themselves.
If Rohani is elected, there will be a change in rhetoric out of Tehran and this will be embraced by many in the west as evidence that the Iranian clerics really aren't the destroyers of freedom and oppressors of liberty that they really are. They're just cute, cuddly teddy bears that need their conspiracy theories and Holocaust denials to be treated seriously.
Some enterprising reporter should ask Rohani if his "civil rights charter" will allow women equal rights and give them the freedom to dress in something besides a burlap sack.
We'll see how "moderate" he is by his answer.