President Hassan Rouhani Wins Re-Election In Iran
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
In Iran, President Hasan Rouhani has won a second term. He easily defeated a hard-line conservative cleric by a 57 to 38 percent margin. The vote is seen as an endorsement of Rouhani's move to try to open his tightly controlled country to the outside world, including an agreement to restrict Iran's nuclear program in return for the lifting of economic sanctions. NPR's Peter Kenyon joins us from Tehran.
Peter, thanks for being with us.
PETER KENYON, BYLINE: Hi, Scott.
SIMON: And what kind of reaction are you seeing there to Rouhani's victory?
KENYON: Well, there are a lot of happy people in Tehran today. The signs had been pointing to a Rouhani re-election. But still, there was a great uncertainty and a great sigh of relief, I guess I'd say, when the official results matched - well, even exceeded the predictions. This was a big win and, for conservatives, a decisive loss.
I was out on the streets today, got a lot of pleasurable reactions. The sentiment was a hope that the margin of this victory would somehow strengthen Rouhani's hand. I met this young engineer. His name's Masoud Ashari (ph). He says the vote proves Iran's population, which is quite young, has been wanting change for a long time. And he says it's building up and building up, and this is - well, here's a bit of how he put it.
MASOUD ASHARI: It's about 10 or 20 years that the Iranian people want to change the condition in Iran. The condition of the revolution has been changed now. The people are now growing, and the new generation wants new thing.
KENYON: I also met a young woman, and she was very happy Rouhani had won. She said she thinks a lot of people voted not necessarily because they loved Rouhani's achievements, which were pretty modest in his first term, but there was a deep concern about having another hard-line government, especially when they look across to the U.S. when they see a government that - well, they see - is full of American hard-line conservatives.
SIMON: And what do you think Iranians expect from Rouhani in his second term?
KENYON: The plea is pretty clear - fix the economy now. I met a lot of desperate Iranians this week just barely hanging on, wondering when this big nuclear deal that's gotten so much attention and brought billions of dollars into the country, will mean some real improvement in their lives. So jobs, salaries, economic growth - it's a familiar tale. And those are the challenges facing Rouhani now. Iranians seem to be buying his argument that engaging with the world is the right way to do it. But he couldn't achieve much for ordinary people in his first term. And the question is, what can he do in a second?
SIMON: And Peter, what implications does Rouhani's re-election hold for relations between the Trump administration and Iran?
KENYON: Well, people here are hoping Rouhani's election is seen in the West as a sign of continuity, stability. But it's going to be a rocky road, I've been told over and over again, especially if the harsh rhetoric from the Trump administration turns into more sanctions or confrontations. The Iranians are watching Trump's Mideast trip here with more than a little unease. They believe the Saudis and Israelis will try to pressure Trump into confronting Iran. But when it came time to pull the trigger on the vote yesterday, most of them seemed to believe that it would be even worse if they had a hardliner in office.
SIMON: NPR's Peter Kenyon in Tehran - thanks very much for being with us.
KENYON: Thanks, Scott.
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