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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Iran Election: Moderate Cleric In Lead

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Moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani is holding a comfortable lead in Iran’s presidential election based on early results, figures released by the country’s interior ministry show.

Mr Rouhani – one of six candidates approved by the Guardian Council to run in the election – has a share of 51% of the vote, with nearly 27 million votes counted.

It gives the former nuclear negotiator an early margin over Tehran Mayor Mohammad Ghalibaf, former military commander Mohsen Rezaee and chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili. The other two candidates are further back.

The winning candidate needs to get more than 50% of the vote to avoid a second-round run-off in a week’s time.

Iran election
The polling stations stayed open a few extra hours

If Mr Rouhani does win, the outcome is unlikely to transform relations between Iran and the outside world as all sensitive matters are the domain of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

But the president does wield important influence in decision-making in the country, which is a major oil producer, and could bring a change from the confrontational style of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The final results of the first round of the presidential election are expected to be declared on Saturday afternoon.

Iran has more than 50 million eligible voters, and turnout in the election is thought to be high.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei casts his ballot at his office in central Tehran
The Ayatollah has not said who he voted for

Polling stations stayed open for up to five hours later than planned as millions of Iranians turned out to cast their votes.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday that whatever the result of the presidential election, it would be a vote of confidence in the Islamic Republic.

“A vote for any of these candidates is a vote for the Islamic Republic and a vote of confidence in the system,” the leader’s official Twitter account said.

The Supreme Leader is the real power in Iran, but some analysts are saying that Mr Rouhani’s early success shows the Ayattollah is less powerful than imagined.

Trita Parsi, of the Washington-based National Iranian Council, said: “If this result stands, the Western narrative stating that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) are all-powerful needs to be revisited.”

“Though hardliners remain in control of key aspects of Iran’s political system, the centrists and reformists have proven that even when the cards are stacked against them, they can still prevail due to their support among the population.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has served the maximum two terms

The former leader, Mr Ahmadinejad, spectacularly fell out with the Ayatollah and defined himself for his robust and aggressive stance towards the international community and Iran’s controversial nuclear policy.

Leading reformers unable to run in the presidential election had rallied around Mr Rouhani, urging their supporters to back him ahead of Friday’s poll.

If he wins – especially without the need to go to a run-off – it will be seen as a victory for those who have been urging the country to take a more moderate stance.

Mr Ahmadinejad had worried many in the West by using inflammatory rhetoric against Israel and by promoting a nuclear programme, said to feature weapons development.

The streets in Tehran have remained calm so far – the spectre has been raised of a repeat of the street demonstrations seen in 2009 when the opposition movement accused the government of vote-rigging.

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