Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani easily won his bid for a second term in Friday’s election, securing 57 percent of the vote in a victory over his main challenger, the conservative Ebrahim Raisi.
Raisi, who secured 38 percent of the vote, is “one of four judges who sentenced thousands of political prisoners to death in the 1980s, regarded by reformers as a symbol of the security state at its most fearsome,” Reuters writes.
Voter turnout was strong; over 40 million—roughly 70 percent of those eligible—turned up at the polls.
“Our nation’s message in the election was clear: Iran’s nation chose the path of interaction with the world, away from violence and extremism,” Rouhani, a key figure behind the historic U.S.-Iran nuclear deal, said in a post-win televised speech.
The New York Times writes: “Despite the healthy margin of victory, Mr. 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.”
According to Trita Parsi, president of the National Iranian American Council, the more moderate “Rouhani’s convincing win is a sharp rebuke to Iran’s unelected institutions that were a significant brake on progress during Rouhani’s first term. It is also a rebuke of Washington hawks who openly called for either a boycott of the vote or for the hardline candidate Ebrahim Raisi to win in order to hasten a confrontation.”
Now, Parsi continues, Rouhani “must take decisive action to protect the human rights and civil liberties of the Iranian people, pursue improved relations with the world, and promote economic growth for the Iranian people.”
As for the future of relations between Tehran and Washington, Parsi says “President Rouhani’s reelection also creates an opportunity for the Trump administration to chose diplomacy over war with Iran. During his campaign, Rouhani clearly stated his desire to lift the remaining non-nuclear sanctions on Iran, which can only be interpreted as a desire to engage in further diplomatic talks with Washington. If the Trump administration is willing to unclench its fist, it can advance U.S. national interest and security in the Middle East in ways that confrontation and war have proven unable to.”
President Donal Trump, for his part, is in Riyadh, where “the Saudis are hosting an Arab Islamic American Summit with leaders from dozens of Muslim countries,” and where “Trump and the Saudi king signed several agreements spanning diplomatic, governmental and commercial ventures, including an arms deal worth $110 billion,” as NPR reports.
Given that backdrop, Robert Fisk points to the “contrast this election has been to the vast congress of dictators and cut-throat autocrats greeting Donald Trump in Riyadh.”
“They are there to encourage Sunni Saudi Arabia’s thirst for war against Shia Iran and its allies. Which is why the Saudis will be appalled that a (comparatively) reasonable Iranian has won a (comparatively) free election that almost none of the 50 dictators gathering to meet Trump in Riyadh would ever dare to hold,” he writes at the Independent.
Now, Fisk continues, “everything depends on how [Rouhani] will respond to the madness of the Trump regime and its willingness to support the Sunni war machine with more than $100bn of weapons against Iran and its allies and friends.”