Riding a large turnout from Iran’s urban middle classes, President Hassan Rouhani won re-election in a landslide on Saturday,
giving him a mandate to continue his quest to expand personal freedoms and open Iran’s ailing economy to global investors.
Perhaps as important, analysts say, the resounding victory should enable him to strengthen the position of the moderate and reformist tendency,
as the country prepares for the end of the rule of the 78-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
With most of the votes from Friday’s election counted, the Interior Ministry said Rouhani had won 22.8 million,
soundly defeating his chief opponent, Ebrahim Raisi, who received 15.5 million.
Iranian state television — a bastion of right-wing power — congratulated Rouhani on his victory.
Turnout was heavy, with about 40 million of Iran’s 56 million voters, more than 70%, casting ballots.
Needs To Deliver Economic Improvements
Despite the healthy margin of victory, Rouhani, 68, will face considerable headwinds,
both at home and abroad, as he embarks on his second term.
One of those, Reihane Taravati, 26, who has 175,000 followers on Instagram, achieved a measure of fame in 2014
when she and some friends were arrested after making a video of them dancing to the song ‘Happy’ by the American rapper Pharrell.
She was sentenced to 91 lashes and jail time, though the rulings were later suspended.
“At the time, Rouhani tweeted saying the country needed happiness,” she said.
“That was a great help.”
This year, she decided she wanted to help Rouhani win re-election.
“I looked at what he has achieved for us in the past four years and decided I had to do something”,
she said in an interview over the messenger app Telegram.
The nuclear deal has been hugely important in bringing Iran with all its talented young people out of its isolation, she said.
“But what he has done for the internet has been revolutionary.
He increased the speed and now we no longer need state television as a platform.
We are our own media now.”
So Ms. Taravati opened up her Instagram account and started posting pictures in support of Rouhani.
“We do not want to lose what we have gained and his win is a big victory,” she said.
Ideological Divisions In Iran
Over the past week of campaigning, streets in Iranian cities were filled with supporters of both candidates,
often friendly but at times arguing over the future of the country.
The election campaign emphasized a split between those favoring an overhaul of the quasi-socialist economy and expanded personal freedoms
and those wanting to adhere to the ideological precepts of the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
“I am voting for Raisi because he is a ‘seyed,’” said Fazlolah Bahriye,
using the honorific given to those believed to be descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.
Bahriye, who said he thought he was in his early 70s (many in Iran are unsure of their birth dates),
then offered a diatribe against politicians, saying that they promised many things but never delivered.
Other voters, especially younger ones, said they favored Rouhani.
“I want more freedom, a relaxation of the strict rules,” said Muhammad Badijan, 19.
He was wearing bright blue contact lenses that matched his shirt.
“I just want to live a normal life,” he added.
In the end, analysts said, the biggest impact of Rouhani’s victory will be felt
when Ayatollah Khamenei, who has had some health issues in recent years, should die or step down.
“A big margin victory, and god forbid the supreme leader passes in the coming four years,
Rouhani will, at least temporarily have a better command to run the country,”
said Fazel Meybodi, a Shiite cleric from the city of Qum, and a supporter of Rouhani.
“Of course in the long term it is the Expert Assembly that will decide,”
he said of the 86 member council that will choose the next leader.
“But Rouhani will be more influential there, after this victory,”