Vladimir Sazhin: "There is no alternative to Hassan Rouhani in Iran"

- Who will be Hassan Rouhani's competitor in the elections?

- It is difficult to say now. The elections will be held in six months. According to unofficial data, the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei supports the candidacy of Hassan Rouhani. In addition, traditionally Iran's President runs for two terms, not counting the first date of the Islamic Revolution, when the president was killed. After that all the presidents were elected twice. The main political opponent of Hassan Rouhani, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, refused to participate in the elections. There are no bright charismatic leaders among the opposition to President Rouhani. Maybe they emerge later, but most likely that Rouhani will be elected for the second term.

- How strong is Rouhani’s stand on the issues during the run for the second term?

- His main achievement is resolving the Iranian nuclear issue. His main weaknes is unresolved economic issues. But these things are related. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was adopted on July 14, 2015 by Iran and the six negotiators, and the settlement of the nuclear issue has opened Iran for international business. During the time, a lot of presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and other foreign officials have visited Iran, not to mention economic and trade delegations. Everyone wants to do business in Iran. There is a strong competition. But the West is working with Iran with caution. They are not sure about the future because of the tough US position. The US is removing only those sanctions which have to do with the nuclear issue. The sanctions, which were introduced because of the human rights violations because of Iran's support of terrorist groups around the world, remain in place. Therefore, Western companies enter into business relations with Iran with uncertainty, fearing actions from the United States. I am sure that Iran as well as others involved will fulfill the JCPOA requirements. Over time, the issue will be resolved, and not only preliminary agreements and memorandums will be signed with Iran, but also contracts. Today Iran has rebuilt a system of oil contracts, which attracts strong international oil and gas companies, including Russian ones. I think that in the near future, there will be a flow of foreign investments to Iran, which will contribute to the development of Iran's economy. The course, which is offered by President Rouhani, is optimal for Iran. I think this course will be supported and will ensure Hassan Rouhani’s victory.

- How has the ratio of conservatives and progressives changed in the Iranian governing elite in the last four years?

- This is a conditional division. The liberals and reformers, represented by Hassan Rouhani, won the majority in the parliament, they have a serious impact on the domestic and foreign policy of Iran. After the presidential elections in 2013 and the elections to the Majlis there have been changes. We cannot say that the opposite block weakened, it became even more aggressive towards Rouhani. However I think the majority is still on Rouhani's side.

- How calm will the elections in 2017 be?

- Now it is difficult to say, but I think it will be relatively calm.

- How is the world seeing these elections?

- Positively, because in less than four years Rouhani proved himself a pragmatist with whom you can do business.

The interview was originally published by Vestnik Kavkaza