Moderate Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani has managed to pull off a resounding victory over conservative forces in Iran’s recent presidential election. Rouhani, who defeated his conservative challenger Ebrahim Raisi, got 57% of the vote, as per Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli. He’ll serve another four years in the post.
More than 40 million Iranian voters flocked to polling stations, according to the head of Iran’s Interior Ministry State Elections Committee. More than 70% of eligible voters cast ballots. Raisi — who got 38% of the vote — had been widely seen as Iran’s Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ‘s preferred candidate. But Rouhani had history and hope on his side. No sitting president has failed to win a second term since 1981.
‘This hope with which you’ve entrusted me, I do feel the weight of this responsibility,’ Rouhani said in a televised address Saturday, ‘and I do pray to God to be a worthy carrier of your hopes and your dreams.’
In his remarks, he passed along his gratitude to his ‘good dear and close friend’ former President Mohammed Khatami, a reformist figure who is popular among more liberal Iranians. Rouhani also remembered fondly the late statesman Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as a man of ‘reconstruction and progress.’
‘His place among us in this morning of victory is quite empty,’ Rouhani said of Rafsanjani.
Rouhani’s engagement with the outside world in spite of economic sanctions and visa restrictions resonated with voters, especially those in affluent areas. In the campaign trail, Rouhani sought to frame the vote as a choice between greater civil liberties and “extremism”, criticising the continued arrest of reformist leaders and activists. Raisi, for his part, accused Rouhani of mismanaging the economy and positioned himself as a defender of the poor, calling for a much tougher line with the West.
The onus now lies with Rouhani to press for reforms he vowed during the election campaign.