President Hassan Rouhani won re-election in a landslide on Saturday, giving a mandate to continue his quest to expand personal freedoms and open Iran’s ailing economy to global investors.
Perhaps as important, medias say, the resounding victory should enable Hassan Rouhani to strengthen the position of the moderate and reformist faction as the country prepares for the end of the rule of the 78-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Of the 41 million votes cast, the Interior Ministry said, Hassan Rouhani won 23 million (or 57 percent), soundly defeating his chief opponent, Ebrahim Raisi, who received 15.7 million (38.5 percent). Iranian state television congratulated Rouhani on his victory.
Turnout was heavy, with more than 70 percent of Iran’s 56 million voters casting ballots.
Despite the healthy margin of victory, Rouhani, 68, will face considerable headwinds, both at home and abroad, as he embarks on his second term. He badly needs to demonstrate progress on overhauling the moribund economy.
While he accomplished his goal of reaching a nuclear agreement with the United States and Western powers in his first term, that has not translated into the economic revival he predicted because of lingering American sanctions.
The Trump administration’s national security officials are on record as considering Iran the source of most of the Middle East’s troubles, while the Republican-controlled Congress is not about to loosen the unilateral sanctions that are frightening off foreign banks and businesses.
Hassan Rouhani, who has managed to mend ties with the European Union, is undaunted, saying only last week that, “We will break all the sanctions against Iran.”
After his victory on Saturday, Hassan Rouhani said after invoking the name of God: “With more than 41 million of your votes, you have pulled out the history of our country away from inertia and doubt.” He made a point of mentioning the name of Iran’s former reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, whose name and portrait have been banned by state television and all domestic print media. “I will keep my promises,” Rouhani added.