Moderate cleric Hassan Rowhani has a clear lead in Iran’s presidential election, garnering nearly 51 percent of the vote at 76 percent of polling stations across the country, the Iranian Ministry of the Interior ministry said yesterday.
Rowhani, a former top nuclear negotiator, collected 14.2 million votes out of 27.6 million counted by 5pm, the ministry said.
If repeated at the remaining polling stations, his 50.8 percent tally would be enough to give him outright victory without recourse to a second-round run-off.
Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf was in distant second with 4.37 million votes, or 15.6 percent.
He was followed by Iranian Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili — Iran’s current top negotiator — with 11.4 percent, and former Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Mohsen Rezai with 11.3 percent.
Former Iranian minister of foreign affairs Ali Akbar Velayati and Mohammad Gharazi trailed with less than 10 percent each of the vote.
More than 50.5 million Iranians were eligible to vote to elect Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s successor, who was constitutionally barred from a third term.
The powerful showing by former nuclear negotiator Rowhani demonstrated the strength of opposition sentiment even in a system that is gamed against it. The ruling clerics barred from the race reform candidates seen as too prominent, allowing a list of hopefuls who were mainly staunch loyalists of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini. So the opposition settled on Rowhani as the least objectionable of the bunch, making him the de facto reform candidate.
Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said the final result would be announced by late yesterday.
The apparent strong turnout — estimated at 75 percent by hardline newspaper Kayhan — suggested liberals and others abandoned a planned boycott as the election was transformed into a showdown across the country’s political divide.