(The Guardian) – The moderate Iranian cleric Hassan Rouhani has taken a strong lead in the initial results of Iran’s presidential election, threatening to win a simple majority and avoid a second-round runoff.
With more than 8 million votes counted from the 50 million electorate, Rouhani had 51.2% of votes cast, Reuters reported. Rouhani’s nearest rival was the conservative Tehran mayor, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, a long way behind with 16.7%. Hardline nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili was third with about 13%.
Seven hours after polling ended, Iran’s interior minister, Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, appeared on state-run television to begin announcing the results.
“It has taken them seven hours to count 800,000 votes while four years ago they counted almost 30 million votes in few hours,” one Iranian living in Tehran said via online chat on Facebook. “It might be a good sign that actually this time they’re really counting.”
On Friday millions of people across the country queued to elect a successor to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The endorsement of Rouhani earlier in the week by reformist leaders increased the chances of a second round next Friday and injected last-minute excitement into the race.
Rouhani, 65, is the only cleric among the eight candidates, but is seen as a pro-reform moderate figure. He is a former chief Iranian nuclear negotiator who served as the secretary of Iran’s supreme national security council for 16 years.
Under the former president Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, Rouhani was responsible for negotiating with the west over Tehran’s nuclear dossier. On Rouhani’s watch, Iran halted its enrichment of uranium and showed more co-operation with the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Organisation. He is keen to transform Iran’s damaged relations with the west and favours political openness.
(Al-Monitor) – “Hello, Iran, with your face covered in dust,” greeted presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani in a half-hour documentary aired to millions of Iranians on state TV Tuesday night [June 4]. “We are in a cultural, economic and political winter and the weather is unfairly cold,” he said, quoting Persian poet Mehdi Akhavan-Sales.
In the 30 minutes of airtime provided to each of the eight approved candidates for the June 14 election, the little-known Rouhani put up a robust performance, criticizing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration and campaigning on broad, but as yet ill-defined, reforms for the country. He pledged his presidency would “end isolation for the Iranian people.”
His high-profile — but behind the scenes — political biography was aired, as were vague allusions to what to expect for his political agenda, under the campaign slogan, “Government of Proficiency and Hope.”
The reformist-leaning cleric comes from the same political stable as centrist ex-President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who was rejected from running in the election on May 21 by Iran’s Guardian Council. Rouhani is considered a long shot for the election, but his campaign has been gaining momentum over the past week and local media suggest he is days away from winning official support of Iran’s reformists, which could mobilize significant numbers of voters for him.