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Moderate Wins Iran's Presidential Election


This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The Iranian interior minister has announced on state TV that Hasan Rowhani has won that country's presidential election. Mr. Rowhani reportedly won 53 percent of the vote. He's considered a moderate on Iran's political spectrum. Karim Sadjadpour is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and joins us. Thanks very much for being with us.


SIMON: How do you read this election result?

SADJADPOUR: Well, what's interesting is that of all the candidates that were permitted to run, Hasan Rowhani was the most moderate. And for that reason people didn't expect him to be able to win because over the last decade in Iran, moderates and reformists have been systematically purged from the system.

So I think this was a very surprising outcome, not because the Iranian public didn't want change. I think this was - it's been obvious for a while that people in Iran want to see change. But what was quite surprising was that the ballots actually were counted and Rowhani was allowed to win.

SIMON: What kind of change do you think his election might suggest?

SADJADPOUR: Well, after a decade of kind of foreign policy of resistance, especially on the nuclear file, nuclear intransigence. And then domestically, increasingly securitized atmosphere at home where people felt increasingly that they were living under a repressive securitized authoritarian regime. I would argue that the clouds of oppression - or the clouds of repression - have parted ever so slightly. Too early to say what's going to happen, but at least domestically I think many moderates in Iran are breathing a sigh of relief.

And with regards to foreign policy, instead of having a president like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who denies the Holocaust and is belligerent towards Israel, Rowhani is much more sophisticated. He studied in Scotland, he speaks English, he's not known as kind of a visceral anti-American ideologue.

So I think this is a pretty significant occurrence. The supreme leader will continue to likely have the last word on matters of major import like relations with the United States and the nuclear issue, but I think is something that we should take very seriously. It was a very unexpected occurrence.

SIMON: In the seconds we have left, he's a former nuclear negotiator; moderate that he is, does he believe in Iran developing a nuclear weapon?

SADJADPOUR: I think he's one of those figures who, on one hand wants Iran to be strong. He believes in the Islamic republic. But I think he would also like an Iran which is more at peace with the outside world and reintegrated into the international community. So from the vantage points of the White House, that's positive.

SIMON: Karim Sadjadpour, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Thanks for being with us.

SADJADPOUR: Anytime. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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