With just over 23 million votes counted as of Saturday afternoon, Rouhani has secured more than 11.7 million votes so far, well ahead of the next candidate Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. Final results are expected later in the day.
State TV channels said the winning candidate needed more than 50% of all ballots cast, including invalid ones. Voting was extended by five hours on Friday evening to allow more people to cast their ballots. Iranian Press TV said turnout was 80%. To win, a candidate must get more than 50 percent of the vote. If no one succeeds after the initial vote, a runoff election will take place next Friday.
Iran's most powerful man is however not the president, that distinction belongs to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has been Iran's supreme leader since 1989. He's got plenty of backing, from conservative citizens to loyalist militia groups to, most notably, the Revolutionary Guard. "Whoever is president, he's going to have his hands relatively tied by the Revolutionary Guard if they don't really like what he's doing," said Alireza Nader, a policy analyst at the Rand Corporation think tank.
Analysts say the high interest in the carefully orchestrated campaign may be due to the candidacy of moderate cleric Rouhani. Iran's former nuclear negotiator picked up the endorsements of leading reformists. Former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, another reformist leader, who was barred from running by Iran's Guardian Council of clerics and jurists, also had urged his supporters not to boycott the election.
Most other candidates in the the election, including current chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and Tehran Mayor Qalibaf, are considered hardliners who are loyal to the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
With the conservative camp divided, reformists seem confident of a good showing by Rouhani, the former chief nuclear negotiator, who has emerged as a frontrunner. According to analysts, there is a possibility of a run-off. Rouhani was earlier not thought of as a serious contender, but since the endorsements of two former presidents, pro-reform Mohammad Khatami and pragmatist Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, there had been increasing excitement in Tehran over his candidacy during the past 24 hours.
On 7 May 2013, Rouhani registered for the presidential election that was held on 14 June 2013. He said that he will prepare a “civil rights charter”, restore the economy and improve rocky relations with the West if he is elected. As early vote counts began coming in, Rouhani took a large lead.