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Saturday, June 15, 2013

After Long Night of Counting, Post-Election Celebrations in Iran

The Lede followed developments in Iran on Saturday, where Hassan Rowhani, a moderate cleric supported by the country’s reformist movement, was declared the winner of Friday’s presidential election.

3:36 P.M. Joy and Relief on the Streets of Iran

As Bahman Kalbasi of BBC Persian notes, reports from Tehran suggest that joy over the victory of the reformist candidate is mixed with widespread relief at the end of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s two terms in office.

Arash Azizzada of Voice of America’s Persian News Network in Washington just received video of wild celebrations in Borujerd, in western Iran, a bastion of support for Mehdi Karroubi, one of the leaders of the 2009 post-election protests who is currently under house arrest.

We are going to wrap up this live blog with links to another few striking images and reports, but will return in the days ahead to report on the extraordinary developments in Iran.

For the latest news from Iran, read my colleague Thomas Erdbrink’s report, which will be updated throughout the day and night.

3:30 P.M. Full White House Statement on Iran’s Election

Here is the complete text of a statement from the White House on the election of Hassan Rowhani as Iran’s next president:

We have seen the announcement by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran that Hojjatoleslam Doctor Hassan Rouhani has been declared the winner of Iran’s presidential election. We respect the vote of the Iranian people and congratulate them for their participation in the political process, and their courage in making their voices heard. Yesterday’s election took place against the backdrop of a lack of transparency, censorship of the media, Internet, and text messages, and an intimidating security environment that limited freedom of expression and assembly. However, despite these government obstacles and limitations, the Iranian people were determined to act to shape their future.

It is our hope that the Iranian government will heed the will of the Iranian people and make responsible choices that create a better future for all Iranians. The United States remains ready to engage the Iranian government directly in order to reach a diplomatic solution that will fully address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

1:55 P.M. More on Rowhani’s Remarks

Following remarks by Hassan Rowhani on state television â€" summarized by Borzou Daragahi of The Financial Times on Twitter â€" more reports and images of celebrations by his supporters across Iran have appeared on social networks.

1:37 P.M. Remarks From Iran’s Supreme Leader and President-Elect

As celebrations continue on the streets, Iran’s ruling cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the president-elect, Hassan Rowhani have just spoken, Iranian journalists and bloggers report.

According to Abas Aslani, the director of Iran’s Fars News Agency, Mr. Rowhani thanked both the former presidents who now lead the reformist movement, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, and the supreme leader.

Mr. Rowhani, who was Iran’s nuclear negotiator during the Khatami presidency, also spoke of his hopes to engage with other nations in pursuit of peace.

Monavar Khalaj, who reports for The Financial Times from Tehran, noted that Mr. Rowhani, the candidate of “hope and prudence,” also described his election as a victory for moderation over extremism.

Among the images of celebration by Mr. Rowhani’s purple-clad supporters posted online, there were also some symbols of the opposition Green Movement that contested the results of the last presidential election in 2009.

12:46 P.M. Supreme Leader Congratultes President-Elect Rowhani

Iran’s ruling cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has congratulated President-Elect Hassan Rowhani, my colleague Thomas Erdbrink reports on Twitter.

More images of the celebrations in Tehran, and text accounts from witnesses, have been posted on Instagram by Iranian bloggers.

A blogger in the city of Mashhad, where Mr. Rowhani held a large rally this week, uploaded an image of his supporters celebrating in the streets there.

As Saeed Kamali Dehghan on The Guardian notes, an Iranian researcher in London has produced a useful overview of the vote totals in a Google Doc.

12:39 P.M. Images of Celebration in Iran Spread Online

Iranian bloggers and journalists are sharing images of the celebrations taking place in Iran on Saturday, and reporting chants for the detained opposition leaders Mir Hussien Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

12:22 P.M. Amid Celebrations, Defeated Candidates Concede

Amid celebrations on the streets of Tehran by supporters of Hassan Rowhani, the moderate cleric who was just declared the winner of Iran’s presidential election, the two conservative candidates who finished second and third the final count, Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, and Saeed Jalili, Iran’s nuclear negotiator, have congratulated him.

From Oslo, the exiled Iranian blogger and activist Mojtaba Samienejad, who writes as @madyar, joined the celebrations online.

The announced result led some gloating online from Iranian bloggers who were heartened to see even the conservative Fars News Agency forced to publish the news that the ultraconservative candidates had failed to win.

11:52 A.M. Rowhani Declared Winner of Iran’s Presidential Election

Iran’s interior ministry just declared Hassan Rowhani, a moderate cleric supported by the reformists, the outright winner of the presidential election with a majority of the votes, according journalists and bloggers in Tehran, including my colleague Thomas Erdbrink, Abas Aslani, the director of Iran’s Fars News Agency and Jason Rezaian of The Washington Post.

Mr. Aslani, the Fars News director, notes that the victory must still be ratified by Iran’s unelected ruling cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The same source says that Mohammad Reza Aref, a reformer who dropped out of the race late in the campaign to throw his support behind Mr. Rowhani, is said to be in line to be one of the country’s new vice presidents.

11:47 A.M. Final Results Due Within the Hour, State TV Says

Iran’s interior ministry plans to release final results within the hour, according to Abas Aslani, the director of the Fars News Agency in Tehran.

Shiva Balaghi, an Iranian-American scholar at Brown, points out that similar information was just broadcast on the live stream of state television she is monitoring.

My colleague Thomas Erdbrink is with supporters of Hassan Rowhani, the reformist candidate who appears to have won almost exactly half the vote.

The activist blogger who writes on Twitter as @persiankiwi, a source for many during the 2009 protests, claims to be one of those celebrating on a central Tehran street near the Rowhani campaign headquarters.

11:25 A.M. Celebration Grows on Tehran Streets

Reporting via Twitter from the streets of Tehran, my colleague Thomas Erdbrink says the celebration is growing outside the campaign headquarters of Hassan Rowhani, the moderate cleric backed by the reformist camp, who seems to be closing in on victory in the presidential election.

Negar Mortazavi, monitoring Iranian social media from Washington, points to celebrations on Facebook too.

11:13 A.M. Celebrations as Vote Count Nears End

According to my colleague Thomas Erdbrink in Tehran, a cautious celebration has begun outside the campaign headquarters of the reformist candidate Hassan Rowhani, as the news that he seems to be closing in on an outright victory, with nearly all the votes counted, filters out.

Reza H. Akbari, a research associate at the the Stimson Center in Washington, notes that Iran’s semiofficial Mehr News Agency just reported that less than 7,000 ballot boxes remain to be counted, and the reformist retains his slim majority.

Thomas notes that a small number of people, wearing the purple color that symbolized the Rowhani campaign, are chanting for reform and a sarcastic farewell to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A blogger writing on Twitter as @persiankiwi, a supporter of the 2009 Green Movement who claims to be a political activist in Tehran but has been mostly silent since then, just posted a series of updates on celebrations in Iran’s capital.

The blogger also posted a barbed look back at the very different vote-counting process and timetable four years ago.

10:46 A.M. Reformist Candidate Rowhani Holds Majority in New Tally
A screenshot of the running vote tally in Iran on the Web site of the international public opinion and research firm IPOS. A screenshot of the running vote tally in Iran on the Web site of the international public opinion and research firm IPOS.

The director of Iran’s Fars News Agency, which is close to the influential Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, reports on Twitter that the reformist cleric Hassan Rowhani still leads with slightly more than 50 percent of the votes in the latest official count of 32 million ballots released by Iran’s interior ministry minutes ago.

The research and polling firm Information and Public Opinion Solutions, which produced a poll just before the vote showing a surge in support for Mr. Rowhani, is keeping a running tally of the official numbers on its Web site.

According to my colleague Thomas Erdbrink in Tehran, supporters of Mr. Rowhani, who could be declared Iran’s next president within hours, seem determined not to provoke the authorities by spilling into the streets â€" not, at least, just yet.

The response seemed in keeping with the careful campaign slogan of a candidate who managed to inspire the hopes of reformist voters and yet avoid taunting the Islamic Republic’s unelected clerical authorities: “Hope. Prudence.”

According to bloggers in Iran, and residents of Tehran speaking to expatriate Iranian journalists, the desire for change drove many citizens to vote, despite the disappointment of the last election, and calls from exiled activists for a boycott of the poll.

As the Iranian-American writer Hooman Madj noted earlier, the fact that Mr. Rowhani must get more than 50 percent of the total ballots cast, including those intentionally spoiled as an act of protest, could cause some regret from reformists who did not expect this result.

It remains possible that the cleric could end up with slightly more than 50 percent of the valid votes counted, but slightly less than 50 percent of the total votes, making a second-round runoff possible.

10:08 A.M. Rowhani With More Than 50 Percent in Latest Count

As my colleague Thomas Erdbrink reported from Tehran within the last hour, Iran’s state television announced that the reformist cleric Hassan Rowhani has maintained a commanding lead in the latest vote count released by interior ministry.

The focus now is on whether or not the reformist will finish with a clear majority of the votes, or be forced into a second-round runoff with his nearest challenger, the conservative mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf. Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post correspondent in Tehran, notes that as Mr. Rowhani was narrowly above that mark according to the latest information.

As excitement built in the reformist camp at the possibility of an outright win, Iran’s unelected ruling cleric, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, claimed on his Twitter feed that a similar wave of joy had greeted the disputed victory of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009.

According to Najmeh Bozorgmehr, reporting from Tehran for The Financial Times, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a two-term former president who called for greater freedom during protests in 2009, and was barred from running this year, has started calling Mr. Rowhani “the president-elect.”