A 'victory for moderation' says new President of Iran, as supporters rejoice

Israel however is sceptical Rouhani will usher in change

Jerusalem

Hassan Rouhani, the new President of Iran, described his unexpected election win as a “victory [for] moderation over extremism” and claimed that “a new opportunity has been created for those who truly respect democracy, interaction and free dialogue”.

Thousands of Mr Rouhani’s supporters took to the streets in the early hours of this morning to celebrate his success, calling on their new leader to deliver on his promises to repair relations with the world and support greater civil liberties at home. Mr Rouhani, Iran’s former chief nuclear negotiator who beat his hardline rivals by securing more than 50 per cent of the votes in Friday’s polls told state TV today: “With their celebrations, the Iranian people showed they are hopeful about the future, and, God willing, morals and moderation will govern the country.”

The result received a cautious welcome in Washington, where President Obama’s Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, told CBS’s Face the Nation today that it represented a “potentially hopeful sign” – with the caveat that, should Mr Rouhani “come clean on [Iran’s} illicit nuclear programme, he will find a partner in us”. “If he is interested in mending Iran’s relations with the rest of the world, there is an opportunity to do that,” Mr McDonough said. 

Earlier, the White House spokesman Jay Carney stopped short of congratulating Mr Rouhani, urging him instead to “heed the will of the Iranian people. We respect the vote of the Iranian people and congratulate them for their participation in the political process,” he added.

In Israel, the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was sceptical that Mr Rouhani’s success would bring change. “Let us not delude ourselves,” he said. “The international community must not be tempted to relax the pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear [programme]. [Rouhani] still defines the state of Israel as ‘the great Zionist Satan’.”

The minister with responsibility for Iranian issues, Yuval Steinitz, echoed Mr Netanyahu’s statement, saying that, despite the departure of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the real power in Iran – the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – would continue to dictate foreign policy.

“I doubt ... Khamenei will change his tune on military and nuclear affairs without being strongly motivated to do so by increased international economic sanctions,” he told Israeli Army Radio.

Iran maintains its nuclear programme is designed for peaceful means, something rejected by Western governments, which have imposed tough sanctions on it.

In some quarters there was a more measured response. President Shimon Peres stressed in an interview with Reuters that Mr Rouhani, a former nuclear negotiator: “will not go for these extreme policies”.

“It will be better, I am sure, and that is why the people voted for him,” he said. “[The result] surprised all the experts. Apparently there are hidden forces that were underestimated.”

One way in which Mr Rouhani could demonstrate his moderate credentials is by releasing the former opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who have been held under house arrest since 2011. Both stood in the 2009 presidential election against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a poll they claim was rigged. 

On the left in Israel there was hope that the almost certain arrival into office of Mr Rouhani will augur a change in relations. Writing in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, Yigal Sarna, a founder of the Peace Now group, said the Israeli government would have to reassess its position on Iran: “What will [Israel] do without the Persian Hitler? At whom will we fire our smart bombs and how will Bibi [Netanyahu] divert attention from the looting going on here?”

Elsewhere, the Russian President Vladimir Putin, a long-time ally of Iran, said the election result would “further strengthen” ties between the two countries, and urged the West to engage more closely with Tehran.

Winds of change?: Rouhani on the key issues

Nuclear programme

A former nuclear negotiator with the West, Mr Rouhani has a detailed knowledge of Iran’s nuclear programme but during the campaign he did encourage greater transparency: “Iran has nothing to hide. However, in order to proceed towards settling the Iranian nuclear file, we need to reach national consensus and rapprochement and understanding on an international level. This can only happen through dialogue.”

Reform movement

The big question that will emerge inside Iran is whether Mr Rouhani is really a liberal. In short, he isn’t. Approved by the Guardian Council to stand as a candidate, Mr Rouhani’s loyalty is guaranteed and though he may push more moderate reforms that his rivals, wholesale changes in Iran are unlikely.

Relations with the West

Iranian relations with the US are perhaps at their lowest ebb since the hostage crisis between 1979 and 1981, but Mr Rouhani, while recognising the difficulties has called for closer ties. “The relationship between Iran and the United States is a complicated and difficult question,” he says. “There is a chronic wound, which is difficult to heal. However, it is not impossible provided there is goodwill and mutual respect between the two countries.”

Women

One election pledge that at least half of Iran’s population will be pressing Mr Rouhani to keep is greater rights for women in the country. He has pledged to establish a Ministry of Women's Affairs and give women equal rights and pay. He has also said that women who head households should get financial support.

Death Penalty

Public hangings and the extensive use of the death penalty in Iran have become commonplace under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There is nothing to suggest that Mr Rouhani has a more liberal stance on the use of capital punishment. In 1999, following student protests, he called for those found guilty of sabotage to be executed.

Supreme Leader

Mr Rouhani would not have been on the list of approved candidates without the support of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, although there do appear to be key policy differences between the two men. Presidents who have previously fallen out with Ayatollah Khamenei in the past, such as Mr Ahmadinejad, have found themselves frozen out.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser