Iran’s reformist President Hassan Rouhani appeared to have a strong lead on Saturday as results poured in from a crucial election that could significantly influence the country’s future.
Rouhani had 14.6 million out of 25.9 million votes counted so far, Ali Asghar Ahmad, the head of the election committee, announced on state television. His closest rival, principlist Ebrahim Raisi, had 10.1 million votes.
Two other candidates, conservative Mostafa Mirsalim and reformist Mostafa Hashemitaba, were also in the ballot, though they are not expected to win more than a few percent of the vote.
A big turnout on Friday, estimated at more than 40 million out of 56 million registered voters, led to the vote being extended by several hours to deal with long queues.
With results from urban areas still to be counted – and seen by analysts as more likely to favour Rouhani – the initial figures pointed towards a landslide for the incumbent.
Final results are expected later on Saturday.
Has Rouhani succeeded in reforming Iran? – UpFront
The election is seen by many as a verdict on Rouhani’s policy of opening up Iran to the world and his efforts to rebuild its stagnant economy.
Rouhani swept into office four years ago on a promise to reduce Iran’s international isolation.
Friday poll was the first since he negotiated a historic deal with world powers in 2015 to curb the country’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.
In the campaign trail, Rouhani sought to frame the vote as a choice between greater civil liberties and “extremism”, criticising the continued arrest of reformist leaders and activists.
Raisi, for his part, accused Rouhani of mismanaging the economy and positioned himself as a defender of the poor and calling for a much tougher line with the West.
Political commentator Mostafa Khoshcheshm said that in contrast to the 2013 election campaign, when Rouhani spoke about the removal of sanctions and the improvement of the economy, this time his message was different.
“He resorted to other campaign slogans, like [calling for] social and political freedom, and he pushed the boundaries in order to gather public support, especially in large cities,” Khoshcheshm told Al Jazeera.
“If he has secured this result, it’s because of the large cities and the middle class society living there – they have voted for him and made him a president and they expect him to do his promises.”
Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies