DUBAI/BEIRUT/TEHRAN — Iran's President Hassan Rouhani has won the country's presidential election with some 57 percent of the total votes, the country's Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmanifazli said on Saturday.
"Of some 41.2 million total votes cast, Rouhani got 23.5 (million) ... and won the election," Rahmanifazli said in remarks carried live by state TV. Rouhani's hardline rival Ebrahim Raisi got 15.8 million votes, he said.
The turnout of about 70 percent in Friday's vote was roughly similar to the showing in 2013 elections when Rouhani swept into office in a landslide victory.
Iranian newspapers praised the turnout, carrying headlines like "a historical victory for Iranians".
Rouhani, 68, who took office promising to open Iran to the world and give its citizens more freedom at home, faced an unexpectedly strong challenge from hardliner Raisi, a protege of supreme leader Ali Khamenei.
The election is important "for Iran's future role in the region and the world", Rouhani, who struck a deal with world powers two years ago to curb Iran's nuclear program in return for the lifting of most economic sanctions, said after voting.
Iranian President and presidential candidate, Hassan Rouhani, casts his ballot for the presidential elections at a polling station in Tehran on May 19, 2017. (Behrouz MEHRI / AFP)
Raisi, 56, has accused Rouhani of mismanaging the economy and has traveled to poor areas, speaking at rallies pledging more welfare benefits and jobs.
He is believed to have the backing of the powerful Revolutionary Guards security force, as well as the tacit support of Khamenei, whose powers outrank those of the elected president but who normally steers clear of day-to-day politics.
"I respect the outcome of the vote of the people and the result will be respected by me and all the people," Raisi said after voting, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
However, Raisi later appeared at the Ministry of Interior in Tehran on Friday and complained of a shortage of ballot sheets at many polling stations, according to Fars. More ballot sheets were subsequently sent out, the agency reported.
In the last election, Rouhani won more than three times as many votes as his closest challenger.
The Guards and other hardliners hope that a win for Raisi will give them an opportunity to safeguard economic and political power they see as jeopardized by the lifting of sanctions and the opening of the country to foreign investment.
During weeks of campaigning, the two main candidates exchanged accusations of corruption and brutality in unprecedentedly hostile television debates. Both deny the other's accusations.
Joyful voters cast their ballots for the presidential election at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, May 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)