Iran Poll shows Rouhani is popular but victory far from assured

Bloomberg– President Hassan Rouhani is still popular among Iranians, but that may not be enough to win him another four years in office, according to the findings of a poll released on Monday.

While the majority of respondents in a survey conducted by the Toronto-based company IranPoll have a favorable view of the president, they also said that his first term and the nuclear accord he engineered have not improved the economy and the living standards of average Iranians. More than 40 percent said he’s “somewhat likely” to lose the election.

The findings show the uphill task facing the moderate cleric and his backers who want to push ahead with policies aiming to integrate Iran with the global economy — a path that could be reversed if he loses to one of his hardline opponents. The president has spent the past few weeks defending his economic record, visiting factories and oil fields to promote the government’s policies, which have helped bring inflation down to single digits after breaching 40 percent during the rule of his predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The poll was based on telephone calls with 1,005 “representative Iranians” across the country and conducted between April 11 and 14. It had a margin of error of about 3 percentage points.

While almost 40 percent of those surveyed said Rouhani has been somewhat successful at resolving Iran’s economic problems, more than half said he was either “somewhat unsuccessful” or “very unsuccessful.”

Next Step

The findings showed that 72 percent of respondents said the nuclear deal with world powers hasn’t improved the living standards of average Iranians — a criticism echoed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters.

More than 1,600 people registered to run in the May 19 vote. They will now be screened by the Guardian Council, a clerical body that can disqualify candidates. Among those seeking to run are Ebrahim Raisi, a conservative cleric close to Khamenei, as well as Ahmadinejad, whose eight-year reign was marred by crippling economic sanctions.

Ahmadinejad registered his candidacy despite advice from Khamenei against running. The Iran Poll data shows the former president with a favorable approval rating that is not far behind Rouhani. Raisi, who is widely tipped as Rouhani’s main hardline challenger, is still unknown to the majority of those surveyed, the poll shows.