The interior ministry of Iran announced Saturday that Hassan Rowhani, a moderate candidate backed by reformist groups, will be the next president of Iran. Rowhani, a former nuclear negotiator, secured 50.7 percent of the vote in the Iranian presidential election, defeating conservative candidate Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, the current Mayor of Tehran, who only earned 16.6 percent of the vote. Other conservative candidates were in a close run for third place, but far behind Rowhani.
Rowhani's election comes as a surprise to many after the current ruling party barred other reform candidates from running. Few expected any candidate to earn more than 50 percent of the vote, and most expected the election to be firmly in the hands of conservative candidates.
The result shows the strength of opposition sentiment to the current ruling party. The support for Rowhani may be enough to give him an outright victory and avoid a two-person runoff next week. The final result will be announced late tonight.
Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, Iran's interior minister, announced the result at a press conference on state television. He said that 72 percent of the 50 million eligible Iranians cast their vote. Iran traditionally averages between 60 to 70 percent voter turnout. Voters had to wait in line for several hours to cast their ballot, and voting was extended for 10 hours to accommodate the turnout.
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Security has been high, reminding voters of the massive protests that erupted after claims that the results of the 2009 presidential election, which kept Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power, were thought to be rigged. Ahmadinejad was ineligible to run for a third term.
Rowhani has vowed to end the confrontational positions established by Ahmadinejad and the harsh international sanctions placed on Iran.