Iranians are heading to the polls today. The election results will reveal the amount of influence the Iranian people have on their political system, as well as the amount of power the elected president will have. At the end of the day, the president of Iran is not the most powerful official. Instead power resides in the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameni. Although the people of Iran have the power to vote, the final word ultimately belongs to the supreme leader.
However, elections do have consequences. President Hasan Rouhani’s victory in 2013, made it was clear to the Shiite clerics that the people of Iran wanted more connectivity with the rest of the world. And so by taking very small steps, some openness with the west was established. Rouhani and the Obama administration were able to reach an agreement on the nuclear deal. As a result, sanctions on Iran were lifted and the country was able to become an oil exporter once again.
According to a report by NPR, there is also more freedom of communication. Rouhani likes to use Twitter (NYSE: TWTR) (although not as often as President Trump), and is in favor of modern communication technology. His government supported an expansion of 3G and 4G cellphone service across the country.
Alireza Sadeghian, a CEO of several Internet businesses, said, "Once 3G comes, the culture changes… The fact that you have Internet on the street makes you much more addicted to your phone, makes you download much apps, use much more apps, makes you use technology much more ... I don't like it!" Sadeghian said this sarcastically, as the expansion has been good for his business.
Despite small positive developments and several major political achievements, Rouhani did not bring freedom to Iran. The religious clerics still have full control, and the few improvements that had been achieved since the election of 2013 are simply an attempt by the clerics to seem relevant.
Now, Iranians will vote on whether or not they want to continue on the same trajectory, continue with reform and progress, minimal as it is, or conserve the religious and ideological system that has embodied Iran since the revolution of 1979.