Iranians demanding change deliver emphatic victory for Rouhani

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmanifazli announced Rouhani's victory on Saturday on state television.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is winning in Friday's election, leading by over 7 million votes from his conservative rival, Ebrahim Raisi, Interior Ministry official Ali Asghar Ahmadi said in a televised briefing as the votes were still being counted.

"We are still not pleased with the situation, but in the four years of Rouhani there has been a relative improvement and I'm voting to keep that", said Alireza Nikpour, a 40-year-old photographer in Tehran, as he queued to cast his ballot on Friday.

Iranian specialists believe that Rouhani's win marks a shift away from the populism of Raisi into more global and engaging forms of government. "We showed them that we still exist", said 37-year-old Mahnaz, a reformist voter told Reuters.

While Mr Trump, a Republican, has harshly criticised the nuclear accord struck under predecessor President Barack Obama, a Democrat, he has kept it alive while signalling a desire to confront Iran more directly.

Rouhani beat his main challenger, Ebrahim Raisi, by almost 19 percentage points in an election that saw high turnout at the polls.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has won re-election by a large margin. His nearest rival in the four-man race, hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi, secured 38 percent of the vote.

Rouhani is seen as relatively moderate in Iran, while Raisi was considered to be a more hard-line conservative candidate.

Friday poll was the first since he negotiated a historic deal with world powers in 2015 to curb the country's nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

Iran's state television declared Rouhani the victor on Saturday, giving the 68-year-old cleric a second four-year term to see out his agenda calling for greater freedoms and outreach to the wider world. Mr. Raisi ran a populist campaign, vowing to fight corruption and fix the economy while boosting welfare payments to the poor.

But the deal has serious opponents in the USA, where President Donald Trump and the Congress are reviewing their options.

Rouhani put civil liberties at the heart of his campaign, and pointedly thanked reformist former president Mohammed Khatami, who has been banned from appearing in the media since supporting mass protests in 2009, in his acceptance speech.

But Asheri also says Iranians urgently need economic improvements.

"Our nation's message in the election was clear: Iran's nation chose the path of interaction with the world, away from violence and extremism", Mr Rouhani said.

Iran's president oversees a vast state bureaucracy employing more than 2 million people, is charged with naming Cabinet members and other officials to key posts, and plays a significant role in shaping both domestic and foreign policy. Rouhani will now build on the successes of his first term, in which he stabilized the economy, got inflation under control, negotiated with the West to lift sanctions on Iranian oil exports, and prepared to liberalize parts of the energy sector to attract foreign firms.

  • Leroy Wright