Iran: Rouhani leads initial count; over 70 percent turnout

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, whose more moderate policies included greater internal freedoms and a landmark 2015 nuclear deal with the USA that brought about some sanctions relief, has won a resounding victory for a second four-year term, Iranian State TV said Saturday.

Ahmadi, the interior ministry official, said that with 25 million ballots certified by the authorities so far, Rouhani had won 14.619 million and Raisi gained 10.125 million. 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.

More than 60,000 polling stations operated around the country to serve Iran's 56 million eligible voters.

Voting hours were extended several times because of the high turnout - 41.2 million voters, or 73 percent of the electorate.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016. She said she spent more than three hours outside waiting to vote, "but it was worth it".

One Rouhani supporter warmly welcomed the news, but said she expected him to provide greater social and economic freedoms, pledges he made when first elected in a landslide in 2013 by Iranians tired of economic decline and clampdowns on dissent. 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.

In a briefing for reporters, interior ministry official Ali Asghar Ahmadi outlined a similar proportion of votes, which if confirmed would give the pragmatist cleric a second term in which to pursue Iran's re-engagement with the world.

He is believed to have had the backing of the powerful Revolutionary Guards security force, as well as the tacit support of Khamenei, whose powers outrank those of the elected president but who normally steers clear of day-to-day politics.

Rouhani's first comment on the win came on Twitter, which is banned by government censors but followed widely by Iranians able to get around the curbs, highlighting the limits on expression that still exist in Iran despite his promises for greater openness. He is best known overseas as the president who made a nuclear deal with the West in 2015, in which the country agreed to certain limits on nuclear development in return for the lifting of some sanctions. While the supreme leader has ultimate say over Iran's state policies, the president still holds considerable influence in government.

Raisi's populist campaign vowed to fight corruption and fix the economy while boosting welfare payments to the poor.

The two other candidates left in the race, Mostafa Mirsalim, a former culture minister, and Mostafa Hashemitaba, a pro-reform figure who previously ran for president in 2001, respectively have 297,000 and 139,000 votes each.

At recent rallies, his supporters chanted for reformist leaders who have been under house arrest since 2011. Opposition websites have said Green Movement leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi both have endorsed Rouhani against Raisi.

"The great nation of Iran, you are the real winners of the election". Counting started early on Saturday (20 May) and the final results were announced at around 9am GMT.

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