Rouhani sweeps to 2nd term as Iran's leader

President Hassan Rouhani delivering a televised speech in Teheran yesterday following his re-election. He said the vote showed that Iranians have rejected calls by his hardline opponents to stop reforms.
President Hassan Rouhani delivering a televised speech in Teheran yesterday following his re-election. He said the vote showed that Iranians have rejected calls by his hardline opponents to stop reforms.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Landslide victory seen as endorsement of his efforts to steer country out of isolation

TEHERAN • Mr Hassan Rouhani has won a second term as president of Iran, in a landslide victory seen as an endorsement of his efforts to steer the nation out of isolation through its landmark nuclear deal with world powers.

Mr Rouhani secured 57 per cent of ballots cast in the first round of voting, Interior Minister Rahmani Fazli said at a news conference in Teheran yesterday.

Chief rival Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline conservative cleric perceived as the favoured candidate of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, took 38.5 per cent. More than 41 million of 56 million eligible voters, or over 70 per cent, cast their ballots last Friday.

In his first speech carried live on television after winning re-election, Mr Rouhani said the vote showed that Iranians have rejected calls by his hardline opponents to stop reforms.

He also took an apparent dig at regional rival Saudi Arabia, which is currently hosting United States President Donald Trump.

"Our people have declared to neighbouring countries and the whole region that the path to ensuring security is the reinforcement of democracy and not relying on foreign powers," Mr Rouhani said.

Yesterday's result will strengthen Mr Rouhani's domestic mandate to integrate Iran with the global economy. Yet, the extent of his success will depend on the cooperation of Iran's conservative establishment, led by Mr Khamenei, who was widely seen as supporting Mr Raisi during the campaign.

  • 57%

    Percentage of ballots secured by Mr Hassan Rouhani in the first round of voting

    38.5%

    Percentage of ballots won by chief rival Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline conservative cleric perceived as the favoured candidate of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei

It will also depend on actions taken by Mr Trump, who arrived yesterday in Saudi Arabia for talks expected to focus on ways to contain the Islamic republic's regional influence.

Ms Ellie Geranmayeh, senior policy fellow at the European Council of Foreign Relations, said: "(Mr Rouhani) will aim to influence the trajectory of both domestic and foreign policies towards moderation and greater opening with international powers.

"His renewed term promises tougher economic reforms inside the country to boost the confidence of foreign companies looking to invest in Iran."

Shortly after final results were released, Mr Khamenei urged Iranians to show unity following the "intensity of the days and weeks" leading up to the vote.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, a key figure in negotiating the 2015 nuclear accord, congratulated Mr Rouhani on getting "a strong mandate" that will help fulfil the agreement.

Germany Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen welcomed what she called a "positive sign".

Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad also congratulated their Iranian ally on his re-election.

Mr Rouhani, 68, a moderate cleric first elected into office in 2013, has a mixed record.

The lifting of some sanctions under his watch has brought billions of dollars of frozen funds into the country, but while companies have been eager to do business with Iran, fear of running afoul of remaining US sanctions has put a damper on investment.

Monthly inflation has been tamed to less than 8 per cent from more than 40 per cent, and the International Monetary Fund expects Iran's economy to grow 3.3 per cent this year after contracting by 6.8 per cent in 2013.

Mr Rouhani will also continue to find himself facing a tougher Mr Trump, who has pronounced the nuclear pact a "disaster" and imposed new punishments over Iran's missile programme on the eve of balloting.

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 21, 2017, with the headline 'Rouhani sweeps to 2nd term as Iran's leader'. Print Edition | Subscribe