Friday, June 14, 2013


Moderate cleric Rohani leading in Iran elections - Interior Minister

Iran’s presidential elections have yielded preliminary results, with moderate cleric Hassan Rohani running ahead of Tehran’s Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf by nearly 300,000 votes, and nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, who is just behind Qalibaf.

The Saturday morning news was reported by the country’s Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar on state television.

Out of a total of 826,649 votes counted, Rohani showed a clear lead with 401,949 votes against Qalibaf’s 126,896. Just behind Qalibaf is Iran’s nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, with 119,000 votes.

The turnout on Friday was significant, with Iranians coming out from Tehran, to desert polling stations, to even nomads’ pastures - where people would wait in line for hours in the blazing sun.

 The final results are still a while away, observers say. The country of 77 million has more than 50 million eligible voters. Rohani’s early lead can be explained by his reformist stance, which appealed to Iran’s liberally-inclined population. Rohani has stated in the past that as the country's president, he would push for reconciliation with the West.

The hardline newspaper Kayhan estimated voter turnout to be around 75 per cent. In fact, voting had to be prolonged by five hours to accommodate the big numbers showing up. This is believed in Iran to be a result of boycotts planned by the liberals having been cancelled in favor of battling those on the other side of the political spectrum.

There is a total of six candidates running – with Qalibaf and Jallili coming in close to each other, in the second and third positions, behind Rohani by a big margin.

Ali Akbar Velayati, 67, represents the conservative Islamic Coalition Party and is said to be Jalili’s main rival in the race. He used to be minister of foreign affairs and is currently the foreign affairs advisor to Khamenei. Jalili is said to occupy the middle ground between conservative and reformist candidates, with his Front of Islamic Revolution Stability. Jalil has been Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator since 2007.

The remaining two candidates are closely affiliated with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Lhamenei. Of the six, Rohani is considered to be the only true progressive, wanting to free political prisoners and rekindle relations with the West.

The last presidential elections of 2009 were marked by a wave of bitter protesting over a disputed outcome, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad being accused of rigging the election to stay in power for a second term. He is prevented by law from seeking a third one.

Despite this, there is an atmosphere of calm on the side of the ruling clerics, as opposition groups appear to be too fragmented or intimidated to have a repeat of 2009. Therefore, Rohani’s victory (and he is the only cleric in the race) is not predicted to cause a big stir amongst the ruling elite.

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