On June 12, Iranians went to the polls and elected a new president, Hassan Rohani. On August 3, he will officially replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has served eight years and two terms as Iran’s president. As in the U.S., Iran’s constitution allows a president to serve only two terms.
In Iran, however, the president is the second-highest position in government. The supreme leader, or grand ayatollah, is the head of state and commander of the armed forces. The grand ayatollah also approves all presidential candidates. There have been only two grand ayatollahs since the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
It is uncertain how President-elect Rohani will govern once he takes office. He said he wants to improve relations with the U.S. but demanded that Washington not interfere in Iran’s domestic policies and that it respect Iran’s nuclear rights.
There may be reason for continued concern. Rohani is one of the Islamic Revolution’s founding brothers and, ten years ago, was Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator. Further, he couldn’t have gotten on the presidential ballot without passing the ayatollah’s test for ideological purity, Islamic commitment and revolutionary zeal.