Right-wing populist slammed in Iran

As the votes came in on Iran's May 19 elections, populist hardliner Ebrahim Raeesi reluctantly accepted incumbent president Hassan Rouhani's 57% victory, after a bitter campaign. The rhetoric was so heated that a week before the poll, Rouhani even challenged Raeesi, a sitting judge, to issue an arrest warrant for him. Media organizations affiliated with Iran's hardliners, like Tasnim and Fars, went to bat for Raeesi, publishing rumors about the death of Rouhani's son 20 years ago, alleging the apparent suicide was carried out with the father's personal firearm and calling for a new investigation. Meanwhile, Basiji pro-regime militia forces (which played a critical role in violence following the disputed 2009 elections) attacked a number of Rouhani campaign offices in Tehran, Mashhad, Qazvin, Babolsar and Isfahan.

An impassioned presidential debate May 12 became particularly heated over the question of minority rights. During his election campaign in 2013, Rouhani called for greater cultural and political rights for minorities. His government has implemented legislation permitting school instruction in the Kurdish language, with some universities in the country's northwest also set to introduce studies in Kurdish.

All candidates for president must be approved by the Guardian Council, with any deemed too liberal rejected. Of the 1,636 applicants for this election, the 137 women were all rejected. (IranWire, Iranian, May 19; Payvand, May 17; Al Araby, May 13)