Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been reelected in a landslide, winning 57 percent of the vote and defeating the hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi who received only 39 percent. A record number of Iranians showed up at the polls—41 million or 73.5 percent of all eligible voters.
It is difficult to say, however, what is more significant about Friday’s election: Rouhani’s landslide victory and the stronger mandate he has now received or the decisive defeat of Raisi and the Islamic hard-liners who worked tirelessly to oust the president. The distinction is important. Not all those who voted for Rouhani did so because they supported him. Many cast their ballots simply to stop the hard-liners from taking control of the government and to reject Raisi, an Islamic judge with a dark past.
Although Raisi campaigned on a platform to tackle corruption and alleviate poverty, promising to increase monthly cash handouts for the poor (albeit without a plan on how it would be funded), he has a stained past. In 1987, he was a member of the so-called Death Committee, which signed off on the executions of more than 4,000 political prisoners who were already serving out their sentences. The executions are considered a dark and disturbing episode in the rule of Iran’s clergy. The then designated successor to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Ayatollah Ali Montazeri, was furious with Raisi and other members of the Death Committee. “Let me be frank with you,” he had warned them. “You have committed the biggest crime in the Islamic Republic—a crime that will condemn us all in history. You all will be judged as the biggest criminals in history.” The fact that Raisi, with a background such as this, ran for the highest office in Iran speaks to the audacity of the hard-liners and their disregard for public opinion.
In the days before the vote, there were reports that the hard-liners were mobilizing all their resources and forces to bring out as many people as they could to vote
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