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20 May 2017   09:47:29 PM   Saturday BdST A- A A+ Print this E-mail this

Emphatic victory for Rouhani in Iranian presidential polls

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 Emphatic victory for Rouhani in Iranian presidential polls

Iranians yearning for more freedom at home and less isolation abroad re-elected President Hassan Rouhani, throwing down a challenge to the conservative clergy that still holds ultimate sway, reports said Saturday.

State television congratulated Rouhani on his victory. The architect of Iran`s still-fragile detente with the West, he led with 58.6 percent of the vote, compared with 39.8 percent for his main challenger, hardline judge Ebrahim Raisi, according to near-complete results broadcast on Saturday.

 

Although the powers of the elected president are limited by those of unelected Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who outranks him, the scale of Rouhani`s victory gives the pro-reform camp a strong mandate.

Rouhani`s opponent Raisi was a protege of Khamenei, tipped in Iranian media as a potential successor for the 77-year-old supreme leader who has been in power since 1989.

The re-election is likely to safeguard the nuclear agreement Rouhani`s government reached with global powers in 2015, under which most international sanctions have been lifted in return for Iran curbing its nuclear programme.

And it delivers a setback to the Revolutionary Guards, the powerful security force which controls a vast industrial empire in Iran. They had thrown their support behind Raisi to safeguard its interests.

"I am very happy for Rouhani`s win. We won. We did not yield to pressure. We showed them that we still exist," said 37-year-old Mahnaz, a reformist voter reached by telephone in the early hours of Saturday. "I want Rouhani to carry out his promises."

Nevertheless, Rouhani stills faces the same restrictions on his ability to transform Iran that prevented him from delivering substantial social change in his first term and thwarted reform efforts by one of his predecessors, Mohammad Khatami.

The supreme leader has veto power over all policies and ultimate control of the security forces. Rouhani has been unable to secure the release of reformist leaders from house arrest, and media are barred from publishing the words or images of his reformist predecessor Khatami.

"The last two decades of presidential elections have been short days of euphoria followed by long years of disillusionment," said Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment who focuses on Iran.

"Democracy in Iran is allowed to bloom only a few days every four years, while autocracy is evergreen."

The re-elected president will also have to navigate a tricky relationship with Washington, which appears at best ambivalent about the nuclear accord signed by former US president Barack Obama. President Donald Trump has repeatedly described it as "one of the worst deals ever signed", although his administration re-authorised waivers from sanctions this week.

Trump arrived on Saturday in Saudi Arabia, his first stop on the first trip abroad of his presidency. The Saudis are Iran`s biggest enemies in the region and deplore the nuclear deal

 

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