The Dallas Morning News

Iranian moderate wins re-election

Defeat of hard-liner seen as positive for freedoms, diplomacy

- Thomas Erdbrink, The New York Times

Iran’s moderate president sails to re-election.

TEHRAN, Iran — Riding a large turnout from Iran’s urban middle classes, President Hassan Rouhani won reelection in a landslide Saturday, giving him a mandate to continue his quest to expand personal freedoms and improve Iran’s relationsh­ip with the outside world.

Perhaps as important, analysts say, the resounding victory should enable him to strengthen the position of the moderate and reformist faction as the country prepares for the end of the rule of the 78-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Of the 41 million votes cast, Rouhani won 23 million, or 57 percent, soundly defeating his chief opponent, Ebrahim Raisi, who received 15.7 million, or 38.5 percent, the Interior Ministry said.

Turnout was heavy, with more than 70 percent of Iran’s 56 million voters casting ballots.

Despite the healthy margin of victory, Rouhani, 68, will face headwinds, both at home and abroad, as he embarks on his second term. He badly needs to demonstrat­e progress on overhaulin­g the moribund economy.

While he accomplish­ed his goal of reaching a nuclear agreement with the United States and Western powers in his first term, that has not translated into the economic revival he predicted because of lingering U.S. sanctions.

He must also deal with an unpredicta­ble and hawkish Trump administra­tion that only reluctantl­y signed the sanctions waivers that are a central element of the nuclear agreement. President Donald Trump and leaders of predominan­tly Muslim countries held a summit meeting this weekend in Saudi Arabia, but Iran was not invited.

The Trump administra­tion’s national security officials are on record as considerin­g Iran the source of most of the Middle East’s troubles, and the Republican-controlled Congress is not about to loosen the unilateral sanctions, which are frightenin­g off foreign banks and businesses.

Rouhani, who has managed to mend ties with the European Union, is undaunted, saying only last week that “we will break all the sanctions against Iran.”

After his victory Saturday, he said, after invoking the name of God: “With more than 41 million of your votes, you have pulled out the history of our country away from inertia and doubt.”

Rouhani has some cards to play with the United States. Iran provides crucial support to the government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Iraq — a U.S. ally — and any effort to roll back Iranian influence there and in Syria could jeopardize efforts to retake the cities of Mosul and Raqqa from the Islamic State.

Raisi, a hard-line judge who leads one of the wealthiest religious foundation­s in the Middle East, campaigned as a corruption fighter and called on Iran to solve its economic problems without help from foreigners. He appealed primarily to poor and deeply religious Iranians.

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