All of this puts Rouhani in a tight spot. His mandate came from the Iranian people, who chanted “Free the political prisoners,” “The Green Movement is alive” and “Death to the dictator” during his election rallies and victory celebrations. The people were demanding the lifting of sanctions and the economic improvements that might follow. However, Rouhani has no substantial control over the policies that might yield this change — a question separate from whether he even wants to change course, considering both his past statements and deep involvement with the Iranian establishment.
In the interim, Rouhani still enjoys some good will. He appears to have reignited the hopes of many, and even before he assumes office, the value of Iran’s rial currency has significantly improved against the dollar. But good will can only go only so far against the reality of stagnation. Hopes create expectations but reality, as we have just seen in Egypt, requires more than hollow promises.
The golden key, Mr. Rouhani’s campaign symbol, now carries the burden of promises and expectations. What is certain is that an attempt to open this locked door is at hand, and those who seek change, and their opponents, are readying themselves for a brutal battle. The golden key may end up opening the only door it can in Iran: a Pandora’s box that will create additional tensions. And the higher the promises fly, the lower might be their fall.
Dr. Nir Boms is a co-founder of CyberDissidensts.org. Shayan Arya is an Iranian activist and a member of the Constitutionalist Party of Iran (Liberal Democrat).