Supporters of the nuclear deal with Iran hoped (but did not guarantee) that the successful completion of the deal would strengthen the relative moderates in the Iranian government and undermine the hard-liners. Fortunately, it appears that this is what has happened in the first Iranian elections since the deal was finished:
Iranian reformists and relative moderates who support last year’s nuclear deal won the most seats in parliament and a clerical body charged with selecting the next supreme leader in a major setback for hard-liners who opposed the agreement, official election results showed Monday.
As we all know, Iranian elections are very regulated, limited, and controlled by the regime, and that means that thousands of otherwise eligible candidates are barred from competing. The Iranian system is far from being free or democratic in any sense that we would understand those terms, and it’s important to keep that in mind when interpreting the results. Nonetheless, it is encouraging that despite all of this the elections have resulted in a clear defeat for the hard-liners. Indeed, their numbers in the Majlis were almost halved:
Hard-liners won just 68 seats, down from 112 in the current parliament.
That’s a very good result for Rouhani, and it seems to vindicate the hope that supporters of nuclear diplomacy had that successful negotiation with Iran would strengthen his position inside Iran. While the nuclear deal should be judged primarily on its success in restricting Iran’s nuclear program, there was always a chance that resolving the nuclear issue and providing sanction relief could have other desirable effects on Iranian politics. There was no guarantee that this would happen after the nuclear deal was concluded, but it seems reasonable to assume that the deal made this outcome more likely.