Although the election’s impact is far from clear, U.S. officials and Middle East observers welcomed the results as heralding a new chapter in ties between Iran and the West. Some saw increased hope for progress toward a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis, the most intractable and potentially dangerous dispute in Iran’s relations with the West.
“We respect the vote of the Iranian people and congratulate them for their participation in the political process, and their courage in making their voices heard,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. Noting that the vote took place against the backdrop of censorship and an “intimidating security environment,” Carney said, “the Iranian people were determined to act to shape their future.”
News of Rouhani’s win touched off spontaneous street celebrations that transformed some of Tehran’s streets into parking lots. During voting on Friday, so many Iranians turned out at polling stations that voting hours had to be extended as many as four times, with some closing after 11 p.m.
When it was over, about 72 percent of Iran’s electorate had turned to vote in the election to replace the two-term president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The final results were confirmed in a televised announcement late Saturday by Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, who declared Rouhani the outright winner with 50.7 percent of the votes, avoiding a runoff. The mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, came in a distant second, with 16.6 percent of the vote. Saeed Jalili, Iran’s hard-line nuclear negotiator, came third with 11.4 percent. A handful of other conservative candidates fared poorly.
Iranian analysts said Rouhani apparently rode a wave of enthusiasm that materialized late in the contest, when supporters began sensing that the moderate could overcome a divided conservative field of candidates who campaigned on their close ties to the supreme leader and allegiance to his policies.
After the 2009 election, those results — which are still contested by opponents of Ahmadinejad — were announced on state television in the late evening, only a short time after ballot boxes closed, leading to suspicions about the accuracy of the count.
This time, Iran’s Interior Ministry took no chances, releasing the official vote total in live updates, which showed a steady increase in Rouhani’s margin of victory over Ghalibaf.