Iran update: May 19 2017

Folks, I don’t really have a big update in me tonight, but I thought you might appreciate the preliminary results from Friday’s Iranian presidential election:

President Hassan Rouhani has an unassailable lead in Iran’s presidential election, an Iranian official source told Reuters on Saturday, citing an early unofficial tally, and is on course to defeat his hardline rival Ebrahim Raisi.

“It’s over, Rouhani is the winner,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

Rouhani had won 21.6 million votes, compared to 14 million for Raisi, with 37 million votes counted, the source added. There were about four million more votes still to be tallied, the source said.

Even if the Revolutionary Guards and/or Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had been of a mind to manipulate the results in Raisi’s favor, that margin of victory is too great to fudge.

The biggest variable going into the vote today, apart from the possibility of some electoral shenanigans, was turnout–the higher the turnout, the better for Rouhani’s chances. Well, turnout seems to have exceeded expectations, with estimates suggesting that 70 percent of eligible voters participated, a figure on par with the turnout in 2013. There was reason to think, and polling evidence to suggest, that some former Rouhani voters were disillusioned by the incumbent’s inability to reduce unemployment and might stay home, but it seems most of them were still motivated enough, either to vote for Rouhani or against the ultraconservative Raisi.

I have some thoughts about this outcome but I’d rather give them some thought and share them later this weekend than try to pound them out now. I do think that, if this margin of victory holds up, it’s the kind of result that can reverberate throughout Iranian politics for some time to come. These next four years are potentially huge in the Islamic Republic’s brief history, depending on Khamenei’s disposition, and I think the Iranian people just sent a pretty unmistakable signal about what they want from their government moving forward.

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