Incumbent President Hassan Rouhani has won Iran’s election over his hardliner rival Ebrahim Raisi, the country’s Interior Minister says.
Hassan Rouhani is a pragmatist best known for signing an international nuclear deal with world powers. He’s not a reformer.
But his emphatic win over hardliner Ebrahim Raisi is thanks to strong support from reform-minded voters.
During the campaign, he asked for a substantial mandate to allow him to push for social and political change.
Now that he’s got it, Iranians will wonder how hard he’s prepared to push against the clerical establishment and all-powerful Supreme Leader.
“Of some 41.2 million total votes cast, Rouhani got 23.5 … and won the election,” Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmanifazli said in remarks carried live by state TV.
Mr Raisi got 15.8 million votes, he said.
The win by the incumbent President has been seen as a strong rebuke to hardliners from those who wanted substantial social and political reform.
Mr Rouhani claimed credit for fulfilling his promise at the last election, signing a deal to rein in Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling sanctions, while Mr Raisi campaigned on resentment over economic trouble, including high unemployment.
One Rouhani supporter warmly welcomed the news, but said she expected him to provide greater social and economic freedoms.
“I am very happy for Rouhani’s win. We won. We did not yield to pressure. We showed them that we still exist,” said 37-year-old Mahnaz, a reformist.
“I want Rouhani to carry out his promises.”
The big turnout appeared to have favoured Mr Rouhani, whose backers’ main concern had been apathy among reformist-leaning voters disappointed with the slow pace of change.
“The wide mobilisation of the hardline groups and the real prospect of Raisi winning scared many people into coming out to vote,” said Nasser, a 52-year-old journalist.
“We had a bet among friends, and I said Raisi would win, and I think that encouraged a few of my friends who might not have voted to come out and vote.”
Mr Rouhani, 68, who took office promising to open Iran to the world and give its citizens more freedom at home, faced an unexpectedly strong challenge from Mr Raisi, a protege of supreme leader Ali Khamenei.
Mr Raisi, 56, had accused Rouhani of mismanaging the economy and has travelled to poor areas, speaking at rallies pledging more welfare benefits and jobs.
He was believed to have had the backing of the powerful Revolutionary Guards security force, as well as the tacit support of Khamenei, whose powers outrank those of the elected president but who normally steers clear of day-to-day politics.
“I respect the outcome of the vote of the people and the result will be respected by me and all the people,” Mr Raisi said after voting, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
Analysts expressed caution about how much Mr Rouhani would be able to do to bring about broader reforms, despite his apparently decisive win, given the influence of security hardliners in Iran’s hybrid clerical-republican system.
“The last two decades of presidential elections have been short days of euphoria followed by long years of disillusionment,” said Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment who focuses on Iran.
“Democracy in Iran is allowed to bloom only a few days every four years, while autocracy is evergreen.”