External Affairs

Reformists in Iran Celebrate as Rouhani Cruises to Comfortable Victory With 57% of Votes

Hassan Rouhani got 57% percent of the votes, while conservative candidate Ebrahim Raisi came in with a distant 39%.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Credit: Reuters/Fars News/Majid Hagdost/Files

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Credit: Reuters/Fars News/Majid Hagdost/Files

Tehran, Iran: After a bruising campaign, President Hassan Rouhani has cruised to a comfortable victory against his conservative rival Ebrahim Raisi – winning 57% of the votes and sealing his victory in the first round.

After voting ended at midnight on Friday, counting began immediately at the various polling stations. Informal trends, which began pouring in immediately from small towns and cities, showed that there was overwhelming support for Rouhani.

But the first official announcement came in on Saturday morning. With more 25 million votes counted  – over half of the total votes cast – Rouhani had around 58.5% percent of the votes, while Raisi came in with a distant 39%. In 2013, Rouhani had won 50.8% vote in a multi-pronged contest.

These numbers were maintained in the second phased announcement from the interior ministry at 11 am, after more than 39 million votes were counted.

For prominent reformists, the results have brought a breathe of relief. But at the same time, they are not surprised.

“It was not a surprise for us. This is what we had been saying,” a prominent reformist analyst Abbas Abdi told The Wire.

Similarly, Saeed Laylaz, an eminent economist, noted that the opinion polls had been saying this for over a month. “For one month, the opinion polls had been saying that Rouhani would be winning. It is on expected lines,” he said, adding that the mandate shows that Iran had voted to be in the direction of a “more liberalised, more civilised path and for social freedoms”.

While Raisi had tried to woo the underprivileged voters with promises of million of jobs and tripling cash handouts, his vows ultimately did not cut much teeth.

The outpouring of support for Rouhani from the countryside came despite warnings that the economy, which is still recovering, could be the what leads to the loss of the incumbent.

“They (those living in the countryside) have heard a lot promises. They didn’t believe these promise due to the experience that they had in the Ahmedinejad period. So they don’t give a positive response to that,” Abdi said.

Raisi’s entry into the race was seen by many in Iran as a stepping stone for him to succeed the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamanei, who is in his late 70s. While he was relatively unknown till a year ago, hardline conservatives had tried to pull out all the stops to launch a Western-style campaign.

“This is a catastrophe for the conservatives,” said Abdi. However, he does not expect there to be much turbulence on the surface, adding that any introspection that does take place will be behind closed doors. “Among themselves, among the various factions, they will like to come and sit together and try to do some change,” he said.

Laylaz, who had been giving speeches in universities on behalf of Rouhani’s campaign, believes that the campaign and the results showed that there was no unity among the conservatives. “This is the opposite of the reformists,” he said.

“The left side among the conservatives like speaker Larijani, Nategh-Nouri and Motahari are like to support Rohani,” noted Laylaz. “The angry radicals will be isolated, but that doesn’t mean that they will remain quiet.”

The Iranian economist believes that Rouhani has to now take measures to keep them silent – and the best way would be to improve the economy. “If we can increase the cake of the economy, then they will get a greater share of it. After all, that’s what everyone wants, a bigger share of the cake,” he said.

Just like most of Rouhani’s supporters, Laylaz plans to take to the streets on Saturday night to watch the celebrations. “I have been working for the last one month and I would like to see the results of the work by going out tonight,” he said.