Iran re-elects mod­er­ate leader to sec­ond term by wide mar­gin

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - WORLD REPORT -

TEHRAN, IRAN >> Iran’s mod­er­ate Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani trounced a hard-line chal­lenger to se­cure re-elec­tion Satur­day, say­ing his coun­try seeks peace and friend­ship as it pursues a “path of co­ex­is­tence and in­ter­ac­tion with the world.” Fri­day’s elec­tion was widely seen as a ref­er­en­dum on the 68-year-old cleric’s push for greater free­dom at home and out­reach to the wider world, which cul­mi­nated in the com­ple­tion of a land­mark 2015 nu­clear deal that hard-lin­ers ini­tially op­posed.

The nu­clear deal won Iran relief from in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions in ex­change for lim­its on its con­tested nu­clear pro­gram. But Iran suf­fers from high un­em­ploy­ment and a dearth of for­eign in­vest­ment, putting pres­sure on Rouhani to show he can do more to turn the slug­gish econ­omy around. Rouhani high­lighted his de­sire for fur­ther out­reach — and with it, the prospect of cre­at­ing jobs through out­side in­vest­ment — in his vic­tory speech.

“To­day, Iran — prouder than ever — is ready to pro­mote its re­la­tions with the world based on mu­tual re­spect and na­tional in­ter­ests,” he said in a tele­vised ad­dress, flanked by pho­tos of Iran’s supreme leader, Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, and his pre­de­ces­sor, the late Ay­a­tol­lah Ruhol­lah Khome­ini, the leader of Iran’s 1979 revo­lu­tion.

Iran “is not ready to ac­cept hu­mil­i­a­tion and threat,” he con­tin­ued. “This is the most im­por­tant mes­sage that our na­tion ex­pects to be heard by all — par­tic­u­larly world pow­ers.” Rouhani se­cured a com­mand­ing 57 per­cent of the vote in a race that drew more than seven out of ev­ery 10 vot­ers to the polls. His near­est ri­val in the four-man race, hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi, won 38 per­cent of the vote, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial tal­lies that cov­ered more than 99 per­cent of votes cast. Al­though con­sid­ered a mod­er­ate by Ira­nian stan­dards, Rouhani was the fa­vorite pick for those seek­ing more lib­eral re­forms in the con­ser­va­tive Is­lamic Repub­lic.

He ap­peared to em­brace a more re­form-minded role dur­ing the cam­paign as he openly crit­i­cized hard-lin­ers and Iran’s Revo­lu­tion­ary Guard, a para­mil­i­tary force in­volved in the war in Syria and the fight against the Is­lamic State group in neigh­bor­ing Iraq.

Many fe­male drivers held out the V for vic­tory sign and flashed their car lights on high­ways to cel­e­brate the win in Tehran’s af­flu­ent north.

“I feel that I did a huge thing. I voted for my coun­try’s fu­ture,” said one, 32-year-old Sarah Has­san­pour, who wore a loosely fit­ting head­scarf cov­er­ing only the back of her head. “I am so happy, be­cause there will be no war and in­se­cu­rity.”

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