Iran elects moderate cleric Hassan Rowhani as president

AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File
AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi, File
Ebrahim Noroozi

Self-described moderate cleric Hasan Rowhani was declared winner of the Iranian presidential election by the Interior Minister on state television, NBC News confirms.

Rowhani, the former national security adviser and nuclear negotiator, garnered just above the 50% of votes required to avoid a run-off election among the top two polling candidates in the six-man race, the Interior Ministry reported. The Iranian presidency is widely considered to represent secondary political importance to the role of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Some 36 million of Iran’s 50 million eligible voters turned out to cast their ballots in the first polls since the controversial 2009 re-election of current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was barred from running by term limits. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran interviewed several voters who described crowded polling stations, and general dissatisfaction with the current political leadership that has presided over protracted double-digit inflation and increasing isolation and sanctions from the international community.

The Rowhani candidacy was buoyed by a pair of endorsements from two former Iranian presidents as well as the disqualification of centrist Hashemi Rafsanjani and reformist Mohammad-Reza Aref’s decision to drop out of the race, leaving Rowhani as the sole moderate on the ballot.

Earlier this week, Rowhani discussed his platform with the Arabic Daily Asharq Al-Awsat, criticizing the United States for adopting a “counter-productive Israeli agenda,” while allowing that “Iran should articulate its positions and policies in a more coherent and appreciable manner.” The president-elect went on to characterize U.S.-Iran relations as, “a bitter history, filled with mistrust and animosity.”

Rowhani closed the interview by sharply criticizing the Obama administration’s policy towards Iran, saying, “Obama’s policy toward Iran cannot lead to the improvement of the troubled bilateral relations.” The White House recently announced new measures, set to go into effect July 1, authorizing sanctions on foreign financial institutions that use Iran’s currency, the riyal, and raises penalties against conducting business with Iran’s auto industry.

Rouhani is scheduled to take office on August 3.