Elected for a second term, Rouhani says the vote shows Iranians chose ‘interaction with the world’ over extremism.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has pledged to open the country to the world and deliver freedom its people have yearned for after securing a decisive re-election for a second term.
Rouhani sealed a second term in the office after he won with more than 57 percent of the votes in Friday’s election. His principlist rival, Ebrahim Raisi, received 38 percent.
“Our nation’s message in the election was clear. Iran’s nation chose the path of interaction with the world, away from violence and extremism,” the 68-year-old reformist said in a televised speech on Saturday. The election was seen by many as a verdict on Rouhani’s policy of opening up Iran to the outside world.
In 2015, he negotiated a landmark nuclear deal that won Iran relief from international sanctions in exchange for limits on its contested nuclear programme.
“Today, Iran – prouder than ever – is ready to promote its relations with the world based on mutual respect and national interests,” Rouhani said.
Iran “is not ready to accept humiliation and threat”, he continued.
“This is the most important message that our nation expects to be heard by all, particularly world powers.” Saturday evening saw tens of thousands of his supporters celebrating by pouring into the streets of downtown Tehran, setting off fireworks, and singing and dancing until the early hours of Sunday morning.
“I’m happy and a bit relieved after a month of stress,” said 27-year-old Afshin as he joined a large crowd gathered in Vali Asr Square of central Tehran. “In the same way we campaigned for him, we will demand he keeps his promises.” Many supporters were determined to ensure Rouhani now kept his vows to improve civil liberties and reform the economy.
Videos on social media showed huge crowds out on the streets across Iran.
Many wore purple ribbons in support of Rouhani as well as green of the the reformist movement crushed by security forces after a 2009 election, whose leaders have been under house arrest since 2011.
During campaigning, Rouhani had promised to seek their release if re-elected.
In his victory speech, Rouhani appeared to openly defy conservative judges by praising the spiritual leader of the reform camp, former president Mohammad Khatami. A court has banned quoting or naming Khatami on air.
Many experts are skeptical that a president can effect a huge change in the country as he is subordinate to the supreme leader, who is chosen by a clerical panel and has veto power over all policies and control over the security forces.
One of the first world leaders to congratulate Rouhani was Iran’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who said he looked forward to cooperating “to strengthen the security and stability of both countries, the region and the world”. US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whose country has had no diplomatic relations with Iran since 1980, said he hoped Rouhani would use his second term to end Tehran’s ballistic missile programme and what he called its network of terrorism.
Iran denies any involvement in terrorism and says its missile program, which US President Donald Trump recently targeted with new sanctions, is purely for defence purposes.