Iran’s hardliners and conservatives, looking for a unified challenge to President Hassan Rouhani in May’s election, appear to be settling on unemployment as a primary issue.
Lotfollah Forouzandeh, a senior official of the Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces, used a newspaper interview to set out the origins of the coalition, launched in December. He proclaimed that “the people’s demands” especially unemployment, “caused the formation of the Popular Front”.
Forouzandeh asserted that the that unemployment “can be solved” by leveraging Iran’s domestic capabilities, but Iran’s “dysfunctional” executive branch meant that Iranians “have not seen a clear plan” to solve the problem.
The President effectively launched his re-election effort last weekend, saying, “The government has fulfilled its promises to people. We had promised a 5% growth rate but currently, our country’s economic growth is more than 6% and this is very significant.”
Since it took office in August 2013, the Rouhani Government has brought down inflation from more than 40% to less than 9%. However, it has struggled with persistent unemployment, especially among youth, amid its hope for economic recovery after the implementation of the July 2015 nuclear deal.
While the lifting of some sanctions have brought boosts such as a 40% recovery of oil exports, continued US financial restriction and internal disputes continue to hinder investment and trade. Rouhani’s approach of “engagement” also faces a Supreme Leader who promotes the self-sufficiency of the “Resistance Economy” amid his animosity towards the US.
Forouzandeh spoke of a challenge to prevent a repeat of the 2013 election, where Rouhani won a surprising first-round victory after three conservative candidates weakened each other and split their votes. He declared, “Every person whose heart lies with the preservation of the political system and promotion of the cultural of revolution can be a member of the front.” Appealing to the poor, he emphasized that “people from the lowest class” are part of the Popular Front’s “decision-making paradigm”.
The Front has said taht it will choose a preferred candidate from a list of 10 hardliners and conservatives.
(Hat tip to Iran Tracker for translations)
TOP PHOTO: Lotfollah Forouzandeh of the hardline-conservative Popular Front of Islamic Revolution Forces