Iran’s presidential election puts populism to the test

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As the Iranian presidential election campaign gets into full swing, sitting president Hassan Rouhani is facing two strong favourites from the clerical establishment.

As with the first time he ran, in 2013, Rouhani, a “moderate”, is battling “hardline conservatives”, Judge Ebrahim Raisi (protegee of the Supreme Leader), and military heavyweight Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, the current mayor of Tehran.

They have also been called “Principalists” (the label they prefer), and, often in the West, “religious extremists” – Rouhani used the term in his first campaign in reference to his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Today, another label has slipped in quietly to describe Rouhani’s rivals: Populists. However, unlike in the West, where populism has been used in relation to US President Donald Trump, French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen or Italian Beppe Grillo, in Iran the populists aren’t overturning the establishment; they are the establishment. It’s Rouhani, the reformist, the liberal internationalist, who represents the opposition…

Read more : Aljazeera, 10.05.2017