Rouhani takes strong lead, final results expected on Saturday

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widenews desk: Iran’s reformist President Hassan Rouhani has an unbeatable lead in Iran’s presidential election, and is set to defeat his hardline rival Ebrahim Raisi and win a second term. His strong lead results poured in from a crucial election that could significantly influence the country’s future.

Rouhani had 14.6 million out of 25.9 million votes counted so far, Ali Asghar Ahmad, the head of the election committee, announced on state television. His closest rival, principlist Ebrahim Raisi, had 10.1 million votes.

Two other candidates, conservative Mostafa Mirsalim and reformist Mostafa Hashemitaba, were also in the ballot, though they are not expected to win more than a few percent of the vote.

A big turnout on Friday, estimated at more than 40 million out of 56 million registered voters, led to the vote being extended by several hours to deal with long queues. Final results are expected later on Saturday.

The election is seen by many as a verdict on Rouhani’s policy of opening up Iran to the world and his efforts to rebuild its stagnant economy. He swept into office four years ago on a promise to reduce Iran’s international isolation.

Friday poll was the first since he negotiated a historic deal with world powers in 2015 to curb the country’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

A political commentator Mostafa Khoshcheshm said that in contrast to the 2013 election campaign, when Rouhani spoke about the removal of sanctions and the improvement of the economy, this time around his message was different.

“He resorted to other campaign slogans, like [calling for] social and political freedom, and he pushed the boundaries in order to gather public support, especially in large cities,” Khoshcheshm expressed.

“If he has secured this result, it’s because of the large cities and the middle class society living there – they have voted for him and made him a president and they expect him to do his promises.”

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