In 2009, doubts about the legitimacy of Iran's presidential election created a giant outpouring of Iranian citizens that demanded freer and fairer elections. Dubbed The Green Revolution, this uprising was thought by many to be the beginning of democracy in the country, but it did not prove to be so.
In the past few weeks preceding Iran's current presidential election, the country has been closely monitored by the U.S. for similar signs of revolt amid what seemed to be a race only between extreme religious conservatives. This scrutiny, along with U.S. claims that the Iranian election process is rigged, have upset Iran's ruling elite, causing Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Iran's supreme leader) to respond, "Okay, the hell with you."
But it seems the U.S.' fears were at least partly unfounded. In a surprise upset, the only moderate candidate in the entire race, Hassan Rohani, has won the election in the first round alone, capturing a little over 50% of the votes. The next closest opponent trailed behind at a mere 16%, leaving no doubt that Rohani is the choice of the people.
Rohani's victory was no doubt helped by the fact that the other non-conservative candidate withdrew earlier to avoid splitting the reformist vote. Additionally, a full 72% of Iranians came out to vote, encouraged by the ayatollah, who hoped to use the massive voter turnout to disprove U.S. allegations of corruption. In fact, so many voters came out that voting hours had to be extended an extra five hours to allow all the votes to be cast. To prevent a situation like the Green Revolution again, authorities discouraged large crowds, but wherever people gathered, they began chanting, "Long live reform, long live Rohani" or "Ahmadi, bye bye," a reference to the country's outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The fact that a more moderate candidate will be Iran's new president is definitely cause for happiness, as the president is in charge of the economy and makes major decisions regarding foreign and domestic policy. Rohani has worked with Western officials before as Iran's primary nuclear negotiator in the early 2000s, and many found him to be "a strong patriot, tough but fair." The fact that Rohani's campaign platform focused on "constructive interaction with the world" and the promise of a "civil rights charter" for the country are also good indications that he will represent Iran's reformist voice in the government.
However, the happiness must be tempered somewhat with the reminder that Iran's president also shares power with the ayatollah. The issue of national security is under the ayatollah's sphere of influence, which means it is likely that Iran's tense relationship with the U.S., along with its construction of nuclear plants and interference with Syria, will likely continue.
Still, Rohani's election proves that though the Green Revolution may not still be parading through the streets of Iran, the modern, reformist view that it represented is still the voice of the people, and when they have a chance to express it, they will.