EU's Mogherini applauds Iran's Rouhani on re-election

Vote counting began in Iran yesterday after a high turnout in an unexpectedly tight presidential election pitting President Hassan Rouhani, who wants to normalise ties with the West, against a hardline judge who says he has already gone too far.

(AP Photo/Vahid Salemi). Voters fill in their ballots while voting for the presidential and municipal councils election at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 19, 2017.

On Twitter, she said Iranians "passionately" took part in "political life in their country".

Rouhani, a 68-year-old moderate cleric who spearheaded a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, has framed the election as a choice between greater civil liberties and "extremism".

Of the 25 million ballots counted so far, Rouhani has secured 14.619 million votes, while Raisi has garnered 10.125 million, the official said at the briefing.

"I am happy I could vote for Rouhani", said Zohreh Amini, a 21-year-old woman studying painting at Tehran Azad University. Because of the large influx of voters the election has been extended four times a day.

The re-election is likely to safeguard the nuclear agreement Rouhani's government reached with global powers in 2015, under which most worldwide sanctions have been lifted in return for Iran curbing its nuclear programme.

Worldwide affairs researcher Foad Izadi, of Tehran University, said Rouhani may now have the leverage to push for more freedoms, despite opposition from the conservative-dominated judiciary and security services.

And this is the main outcome of the election - both key candidates actually divided Iranian Azerbaijan between each other, showing that in political terms, the Azerbaijanis of Iran are unable to act by a united front, when pushing "their" candidate.

Raisi's populist campaign vowed to fight corruption and fix the economy while boosting welfare payments to the poor.

The other two candidates, Mostafa Mirsalim, a former culture minister, and Mostafa Hashemitaba, a pro-reform figure, won under 500,000 votes.

Although considered a moderate by Iranian standards, Rouhani was nonetheless the favorite pick for those seeking more liberal reforms in the conservative Islamic Republic.

And it delivers a setback to the Revolutionary Guards, the powerful security force which controls a vast industrial empire in Iran.

"I congratulate the great victory of the Iranian nation in creating a huge and memorable epic in the continuation of the path of "wisdom and hope", tweeted Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, referring to the government's slogan.

The strong margin for Rouhani may be enough to give him an outright victory and avoid a two-person.

All candidates for elected office must be vetted, a process that excludes anyone calling for radical change, along with most reformists.

Preliminary results from Iran's interior ministry suggested Rouhani would return to power with a bigger mandate than he had after his original 2013 win, driven by a boldly reformist campaign.

  • Leroy Wright