Hassan Rouhani, a moderate Shiite cleric has won the Iranian presidential election. Rouhani won the election by over 50% of the vote, thus avoiding the need for a run-off.
Known as one of Iran’s leading foreign policy experts, Rouhani easily defeated the current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad .
He will become the Islamic Republic’s next president, Iran’s Interior Minister, Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, announced Saturday evening.
“I urge everyone to help the president-elect and his colleagues in the government, as he is the president of the whole nation,” Najjar said.
In the capital Tehran, people poured into the streets and showed their happiness just minutes after the announcement was made. Residents cheered and blew their car horns, media reports said.
Rouhani told the crowds he achieved a “victory of moderation over extremism.”
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who will ratify the vote on August 3, congratulated Mr. Rouhani on his victory. The new president will take the oath of office in parliament after the vote is ratified.
Mr. Khamenei also congratulated the Iranian people and told them there were the real winners. He had urged all Iranian citizens to vote, even those who abhorred the Islamic system but loved their country, he had told them.
Often seen as a moderate, Rouhani has been a harsh critic of Ahmadinejad’s economic and foreign policy. He has been referred in the Iranian media as the “diplomat sheikh” for his efforts in leading Iran’s nuclear negotiating efforts between 2003 and 2005. He resigned the post after Ahmadinejad took power.
Washington congratulated the Iranian people “for their participation in the political process, and their courage in making their voices heard.” It offered to hold talks with the new government over its nuclear program.
The Obama administration said it was “ready to engage directly” with Iran over its controversial nuclear program.
“It is our hope that the Iranian government will heed the will of the Iranian people and make responsible choices that create a better future for all Iranians,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
Carney added that the though the Iranian election has not changed the administration’s stance, the U.S. was still willing to engage Tehran directly to find a diplomatic solution to concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.
According to reports, over 72%, of the country’s 50 million eligible voters cast their ballots to choose their president. Mohammad-Najjar called the strong voter response a “political epic.”
Mr. Rouhani’s victory, is seen as a repudiation of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s leadership and the hold conservatives have held over Iranian politics since 2005.
The president-elect has pledged to bridge the gaps between conservatives and reformists, and sources say if his past record is any indication, he is well positioned to do so.
Rouhani has the support of former presidents Mohammad Khatami and Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. This in itself is seen as a powerful mandate to advance Iran’s international relations and attempt to negotiate a settlement of Iran’s nuclear activities.
There were a total of eight candidates in the presidential election.
According to media reports, the mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf came second, albeit, a distant one. Iran’s hard-line nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, came third. The others did not fare well.
By Perviz Walji