Rouhani Wins Big

National Desk
The Leader said the winner of the election is the Iranian people and the Islamic establishment, which has managed to win the growing trust of the people despite hostile plots
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli announces election results to reporters in Tehran on May 20. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli announces election results to reporters in Tehran on May 20.
President Hassan Rouhani says his landslide election victory demonstrated that peace and reconciliation prevail over tension and violence

Hassan Rouhani will serve a second term as a solid majority of voters delivered the pragmatist incumbent a strong mandate in the Friday presidential vote that saw a turnout unseen in recent history.

He got 23.5 million votes, leading by 8 million ballots from his nearest rival Ebrahim Raeisi, who got 15.7 million votes, indicating a 57% to 38% victory, according to Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli who spoke in a televised news conference on Saturday afternoon.  

Polls opened on 8 a.m. local time and were supposed to close by 6 p.m. But long queues outside most polling stations prompted the election organizer (Interior Ministry) to extend the voting four times.  

The counting started soon after midnight and the first partial results Saturday morning indicated that Rouhani was ahead by a wide margin.

In a brief address after the final results were officially announced, the president said with his reelection “peace and reconciliation” had won over “tension and violence.”

He said the message of his government to the international community is that Iran seeks “constructive interaction” with the world, but will not give in to “humiliation”, referring to pressure tactics by some powers to compel Iran to compromise on its policies. 

  Building Int'l Relations

He added that the way out of the critical security situation in the strategic region is promotion of "democracy and respecting the people's vote", and not reliance on foreign powers.

Rouhani is a staunch supporter of broader international engagement and reforming the largely state-run economy.

On the campaign trail the incumbent faced an unexpectedly strong challenge from principlist Raeisi, a long-serving member of the judiciary, who often faulted Rouhani and his men for mismanaging the country and advocated an "inward-looking" policy for reviving the sluggish economy.

The two other hopefuls in the race, former culture minister Mostafa Mirsalim and former vice president Mostafa Hashemitaba got 478,000 and 215,000 votes respectively.

In the previous election in 2013, Rouhani won with 18.6 million votes and by a wafer-thin margin avoided a runoff.

Rahmani Fazli said more than 41 million ballots were cast on Friday  from among the 56-million eligible voters in the country of 80 million, which means a turnout of 73%.

The contest initially saw six candidates approved by the Guardians Council, a powerful body in charge of supervising all elections and vetting those seeking public office, but two of them stepped aside earlier in the week.

The first was principlist Tehran Mayor Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf, who pledged support for Raeisi on Monday, and the second was reformist Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri, who withdrew a day later to clear the path for Rouhani.

  Real Winner Of Iran Election

Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei issued a message Saturday commending the people for their "massive and epic" turnout in the election.

"The winner of the yesterday's elections, is you, the Iranian people and the Islamic establishment, which has managed to win the trust of this big nation despite the enemies' plot and efforts," IRNA quoted the Leader as saying on Saturday.

He said the "massive and enthusiastic" participation of the people was "a clear indication of the strong pillars of Islamic democracy."

The Leader said the Iranian people, after going through hectic days and weeks ahead of elections, should now think about unity and solidarity, an important factor to boost power and might of the nation.

Ayatollah Khamenei urged the president and his next administration to pursue "highly-motivated and thoughtful efforts" in order to address the country's problems.

He advised the next government to "protect national dignity" and "observe wisdom in international relations" and strive to boost national power, which the Leader said were among priorities in "revolutionary and Islamic management."  

  Powerful Headwinds

When he took office in 2013, Rouhani inherited an economy in freefall and a country isolated over its nuclear dispute with western powers.

The chief executive managed to stabilize the economy and tame galloping inflation, and his signature achievement, the landmark July 2015 nuclear deal, that won relief from international sanctions, improved Iran's status in the international arena.  

But the government has failed to attract much-needed foreign investment and high-tech to rebuild the stagnant economy and curb unemployment, mainly due to the lingering US sanctions that hamper normal economic interaction with Europe and Asia.

In his second term, Rouhani needs to clearly demonstrate progress on overhauling the economy. Earlier this month, he promised to remove "all the remaining sanctions".

But to fulfill the pledge, Rouhani needs to figure out a way to persuade an unpredictable and hawkish US administration led by Donald Trump, who has described the nuclear accord as a "disaster" and has revived a nearly forgotten mantra of previous US administrations that "nothing is off the table" when it comes to Iran, including the military option.

Friday's vote was held concurrent with the nation-wide city council elections, which for the first time saw ballot boxes replaced by voting machines in one-sixth of the polling stations in 141 mid-size cities.

Counting the city council ballots started after all the votes cast in the presidential race were counted. Results were to come in hours later.

Midterm parliamentary elections were also held in four constituencies.


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