Moderate cleric Hassan Rohani won Iran’s presidential election today, the interior ministry said, scoring a surprising landslide victory over conservative hardliners without the need of a second round run-off.
Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar announced on state television that Rohani secured just over 50 percent of the ballot based on a 72 percent turnout of 50 million eligible voters. “Mr Hassan Rohani … got the absolute majority of votes and was elected as president,” Najjar said.
The outcome will not soon transform Iran’s long tense relations with the West, call into question its disputed pursuit of nuclear power or lessen its support of Syria’s president in the civil war there – matters of national security that remain the domain of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
This doesn’t mean a radical change of policy. The Supreme Leader remains in charge. But it does mean a President who is not as offensive as his predecessor.
Though an establishment figure, Rohani is a former chief nuclear negotiator known for his nuanced, conciliatory approach. He has pledged to promote a policy of “constructive interaction with the world” and to enact a domestic “civil rights charter”.
Rohani’s wide margin revealed a broad reservoir of pro-reform sentiment with many voters, undaunted by restrictions on candidate choice and campaign rallies, seizing the chance to repudiate the dominant hardline elite over Iran’s economic woes, international isolation and crackdowns on social freedoms.
The fact he won on the first ballot is a good sign of strength for the reform movement. Over 36 million Iranians voted and he got 50.7% of the vote, with the next two candidates getting 16.6% and 11.4% respectively.