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A victory for Iranians demanding change

Saturday, May 20, 2017 - 01:34

Iranians elect incumbent President Rouhani for a second time, in a rejection of populism. Saskia O'Donoghue reports

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A clear rejection of populism in Iran, President Hassan Rouhani winning the presidential election - handing an emphatic defeat to his hardline rival Ebrahim Raisi. The incumbent president, who first took power in 2013, won the election with 23.5 million votes to his rival's 15.8 million. Raisi had hoped to draw on economic discontent in the Islamic republic to gain votes. Touted as the darling of conservative hawks, his populist approach appeared to put off potential voters. Instead, Rouhani's rejection of Iran's nuclear programme in favour of strengthening ties with the West won votes amongst those who want a stable, non-violent country. During weeks of campaigning, the two main candidates exchanged accusations of corruption and brutality in unprecedentedly hostile television debates. Turn out at around 70 per cent, with Rouhani winning 57 per cent of the votes. For Iranians the election presented a stark choice between competing visions of the country. Despite doubts about Rouhani, the prospect of victory by Raisi, who was one of four judges in the 1980s that approved the death sentences of thousands of political prisoners was enough to drive concerned Iranians to vote for the current president in force. It was a contest between rural conservatives with economic grievances and urbanites looking for a progressive agenda. An election resembling recent battlegrounds in Europe and the United States. But it was the nationalist - and not the populist - camp that won over voters.

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A victory for Iranians demanding change

Saturday, May 20, 2017 - 01:34