Hassan Rowhani (alternately Rouhani) won the Iranian presidential election today with a decisive majority, avoiding a runoff. Rowhani, a cleric, ran on a platform of moderation and reform, speaking about freeing political prisoners, working to guarantee civil rights and to restore "dignity to the nation."
Rowhani has been a central figure in Iranian politics, serving as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's representative at security council meetings. Rowhani has softened his rhetoric in later years, especially after the crackdown of protesting and dissent following the 2009 presidential elections.
Rowhani campaigned on the promise of a more open Iran, and has vowed to restore diplomatic relations with the United States. Rowhani, as the former lead nuclear negotiator under another relatively moderate Iranian President, has spoken about easing the tensions surrounding Iran's nuclear program.
“Let’s end extremism,” Mr. Rowhani said while campaigning. “We have no other option than moderation.”
While Rowhani's election signals that Iranians (once again) have voted for a more inclusive, open society, the successful presidential election once again cements the total rule of the ayatollah Ali Khamenei, after another one of his insider politicians has become president (obviously they all have to be approved by the ayatollah, but Rowhani is especially close to his Islamist base).
Still, the election marks an opening in the recently dire situation between the United States and Iran, and a small hope for a stronger Iranian economy, free of the sanctions that have crippled daily life.