Iranians Take To Polls In Record Numbers To Vote For Progressive Future

Voting hours were extended three times to accommodate long lines at the polls.

Millions of Iranians stood in line for hours to vote in the country's election yesterday, so many so that polling stations were instructed to remain open five hours after their scheduled closing to accommodate those who were still waiting to cast their ballot. The high turnout, especially amongst women and youth, is thought to have been a major influence in incumbent president Hassan Rouhani's decisive win

Users on Twitter documented voting lines of unprecedented length in recent memory in areas of Iran and also at international polling stations where Iranians living abroad can vote. Voters in the capital Tehran were said to have waited seven hours in order to cast a ballot.

"I have been waiting here since 7:30 a.m.," Mahsa Behzad, 28, told The Guardian. "We don't want the past to repeat."

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The campaign pitted moderate Rouhani, who promised to improve Iran's relations with other countries and open up its economy, against multiple challengers, most notably judge Ebrahim Raisi, a populist hard-liner who ran on a platform of anti-corruption and promises to be a champion of the poor and pious. Election results shows Rouhani receiving 23.5 million votes (57 percent) over Raisi's 38 percent.

In the theocracy/democracy government established in Iran, ultimate power rests with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, but the election results emphasize a political and cultural shift in the country toward a more moderate governance, a view which helped Rouhani secure a nuclear deal with the U.S. in 2016. 

Iran, a country of about 80 million, has 56 million eligible voters. It is estimated the election turnout was as high as 70 percent, 15 points higher than voter turnout in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and 5 points higher than the recent French election

"I'm voting to have an effect on the future of our country," Borhan, a 31-year-old Iranian told Buzzfeed. 

Liberal activists in the country, many of whom endorsed Rouhani in the weeks leading up to the election, hope the next four years will bring progressive changes to domestic policies and government transparency. The election result is being seen by many as a desire of the Iranian people to continue taking steps toward a less conservative and hardline future.  

"I called to friends across the country, in provincial cities, everywhere I'm hearing the same thing: There are many more Rouhani supporters everywhere," Nader Karimi Joni, a reformist journalist told The New York Times. "The trend is toward change."

Cover image via Matyas Rehak / Shutterstock.com.

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