TEHRAN: Wild celebrations broke out on Tehran streets Saturday evening when the Iranian Interior Ministry confirmed centrist cleric Hassan Rowhani’s presidential election victory, throwing open the political order after relentless crackdowns by hard-liners to consolidate and safeguard their grip on power.
An enormous gathering of chanting and cheering supporters flooded the center of Tehran where Rowhani’s headquarters were located. Many of them wore purple T-shirts or scarves, the color of his campaign.
The mood was far different than four years ago, when enthusiastic reformers pinned high hopes on the prospects of reform candidates, only to see incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad easily reelected.
Days of unrest followed that election.
“Long live Rowhani,” tens of thousands of jubilant Iranians chanted Saturday as security officials made no attempt to rein in crowds — joyous and even a bit bewildered by the scope of his victory, more than three times the votes of his nearest rival.
Others chanted slogans not heard openly on Iran’s streets for years: calling for the release of political prisoners, including “green movement” leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and opposition figure Mahdi Karroubi, both presidential candidates in 2009 and both under house arrest.
Others on the street cried: “Ahmadinejad, bye bye.”
On social media, many supporters posted images mixing the reformist “green movement” colors with Rowhani’s signature purple along with the the boast: “We won!”
“It’s the spring of freedom, too bad Neda isn’t here,” some yelled in memory of Neda Agha Soltan, a young woman fatally shot during the 2009 unrest.
“People want a change in the economic situation,” said Saman Hasani, 26, an engineering student who took a more practical viewpoint while joining many others honking their car horns on the street.
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