Hassan Rouhani has been president of Iran since 2013. In his first five years in office, Rouhani has run a tight, disciplined campaign that focused on domestic problems, including unemployment and economic stagnation, while ignoring international disputes with the United States.
The results of the May 19 election show that despite the ongoing tensions with the United States, and the turmoil caused by the unanticipated fall of the Iranian government in 2009, Iranians were still united by an interest in economic development and reducing corruption. The secret local election to select a moderate successor for Rouhani ensured that the most able candidate — Ebrahim Raisi — was selected as Iran’s next president.
Rouhani was first elected to the Iranian parliament in 1997 and became the president of Iran in 2005. He holds a master’s degree in political science and served as ambassador to the United Nations. He is also known as a scholar of the Islamic movement, and maintains close ties to the religious establishment. He is a Shiite cleric.
Hassan Rouhani is a registered member of the Assembly of Experts, which is responsible for selecting a successor to Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei. Raisi has been among the most prominent candidates on the ballot for this powerful body, known as the Guardian Council.
Rouhani has a soft spot for working across party lines. He established a Foreign Ministry with a large number of senior Western diplomats as its top officers. He cooperated with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government to resolve the Iranian nuclear deal. His biggest challenge in the past years has been the long standing disagreements between the moderate conservative-led government and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
In the past few years, he has focused more on relations with European and American powers as well as Turkey, by reducing government corruption, freeing up education and employment, and expanding civil society in Iran.
Rouhani has repeatedly stressed the importance of the rights of women and minorities in Iran. In July 2017, he reportedly issued a harsh decree against adultery and enforced long prison sentences. It was the first time that such a decree was issued since the Iranian revolution in 1979.
Rouhani has been a favorite for years with Iranians, who admire his calm demeanour and quiet approach to crisis management. However, there is widespread discontent among some voters that Rouhani — who espouses reform and openness — is losing the plot. The planned postponement of the nationwide presidential election has a lot of voters unhappy, but they also acknowledge that it might be good to have two young leaders with experience in policy-making at the helm of Iran.
Hassan Rouhani’s family is of considerable influence in Iran. His father, Akbar, was a powerful member of the country’s ruling clergy who was appointed vice-president by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1980. At the age of 83, Akbar Rouhani was also elected president in 1989 and again in 1997. Akbar Rouhani is also a prominent member of the Supreme Council of the Judiciary, Iran’s top lawmaking body. His wife, Masoumeh Ebtekar, is a former minister of science, research and technology and head of the National Center for Arab-Iranian Studies in Tehran.
No photo has ever been released of Hassan Rouhani with President Trump. During one of their first encounters in office in 2016, Trump told Rouhani that “nothing is going to happen with respect to Iran unless and until the Iranian people call you to account for your nuclear program.” But Rouhani now seems to be referring to this plan directly in his inaugural speech: “I invite President Trump and all Americans to visit Iran.”