With more than half the votes counted in the Iran presidential elections, it is the incumbent President Hassan Rouhani who is leading the polls with 14 million votes against second contender Ebrahim Raisi’s 10 million. An official source told Reuters that Rouhani has an unbeatable lead over Raisi and is set to be re-elected to power.
A lawyer, academic and a former diplomat, Rouhani has been part of Iran’s reformists, a political faction that was developed under former President Mohammad Khatami who wanted more freedom and democracy in the political system.
Rouhani is a graduate of University of Tehran and did his PhD from Glasgow Caledonian University. He is a follower of Ayatollah Khomeini, a former leader in Iran who led the Iranian revolution and overthrew the last Shah. Rouhani joined him in exile in France. He has served in many political positions including a few in the Iranian armed forces. He was also the chief nuclear negotiator from 2003 to 2005.
He was elected as president for his first term in 2013 after wining more than 50 per cent of the vote. Right from his first days as president, Rouhani has shown progressive ideals in his presidency. He was the first president to condemn the Nazis for the holocaust. He also wrote a column in Washington Post, arguing for “constructive approach to issues.” He also spoke to former US President Barack Obama directly on telephone, the first time leaders of both the countries spoke directly to each other since 1979.
His biggest achievement in office was the signing of the nuclear deal – in return for reduced nuclear advancement, Iran received relief from economic sanctions on it. He called the deal a wish that had come true. Later, in an address at the United Nations, he said, “A new chapter has started in Iran’s relations with the world,” simultaneously blaming Israel and America for the increase in global terrorism.
During Rouhani’s presidency, the economy stabilised, with the exchange rate of the country’s currency Rial improving. According to reports, however, Iran’s economy remains slugging and a challenge ahead for the incoming president.
While other ministers and political factions announced that he would run for a second term, Rouhani himself never announced his bid for presidency the second time. His campaign hit out at the hardliners of Iran. The BBC reported that Rouhani campaigned for a “moderate modern and outward looking Iran” which was in contrast to his rival Ebrahim Raisi’s stand who was also not in favour of the nuclear deal.
Even though Rouhani has promised more freedom, internet and television remain restricted under his regime. Some journalists and activists have also been locked up without trial. While Rouhani has said he will try to get them out, the hardliners in the country have maintained that they should remain under arrest. The country is also rife with human rights violations. Rouhani, however, has not addressed that.