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Iran's Interior Minister Says President Rohani Won Reelection

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani casts his ballot during the presidential election in Tehran on May 19.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani casts his ballot during the presidential election in Tehran on May 19.

Iran's interior minister says President Hassan Rohani has been reelected to a new four-year term, winning an outright victory over conservative challenger Ebrahim Raisi and two other candidates.

Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli said on May 20 that with nearly all votes counted, Rohani received 57 percent, while his main rival, former prosecutor Raisi, got 38.5 percent.

The reelection of a relative moderate could reinvigorate efforts for an economic and diplomatic thaw with the West as Iran tries to boost employment and kick-start its economy.

The election is the first since the landmark nuclear deal in 2015 that put limits on Tehran's most sensitive nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.

Officials said more than 40 million Iranians voted in the May 19 election -- a turnout of more than 70 percent, roughly similar to the showing in the 2013 elections.

Analysts have consistently suggested that a higher turnout was likely to favor Rohani.

The Instagram account of former President Mohammad Khatami, who has endorsed Rohani, showed a picture of Rohani making a victory sign and ran the slogan, "Hope prevailed over isolation."

Under the Islamic republic’s theocratic system, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has final decision-making authority over all policy matters.

Rohani, who oversaw the breakthrough nuclear deal with world powers to ease international sanctions, has promised engagement with the West and more freedom for Iranians.

The 56-year-old Raisi was said to be trusted by the 77-year-old Khamenei, and his name has also come up as a possible successor to the country's most senior figure.

Raisi, a former member of the so-called death commissions involved in the summary executions of thousands of political prisoners in the 1980s, has echoed Khamenei's and other hard-liners' calls for self-sufficiency to improve the economy, and he has alleged that Rohani has significantly worsened inequalities in Iranian society.

The election is the first since the landmark nuclear deal in 2015 that resulted in significant limits on Tehran’s most sensitive nuclear activities -- which many in the West believed were part of an effort to build atomic weapons -- in exchange for sanctions relief.

The clerically dominated Islamic country of around 81 million people faces high unemployment and economic problems at home and abroad.

Rohani has managed to slash inflation from official figures of about 30 percent to 9 percent and spur economic growth. But unemployment remains at an estimated 12 percent, with the rate among young people closer to 30 percent.

Analysts had suggested a big election turnout could benefit Rohani, as high participation in the past has led to the election of reformist or moderate candidates.

Voting had been scheduled to run until 6 p.m. (1330 GMT/UTC), but was extended several times because of a "rush of voters" that caused lines to form at polling booths in various parts of the country.

State television issued an official report saying people waiting in line were allowed to vote until midnight local time.

Voting was also held for Iranian citizens in dozens of countries around the world.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and the BBC

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