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Iran elects moderate Hassan Rouhani as new president (VIDEO)

Iran's interior minister says moderate Hassan Rouhani won just over 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a run-off in the presidential election.

Iran celebrates rouhani elected 2013 06 15Enlarge
Iranians celebrate the victory of moderate presidential candidate Hassan Rouhani (portrait) in the Islamic Republic's presidential elections at Vanak square in northern Tehran on June 15, 2013. Iranian Interior Minister Mohammad Mostafa Najjar said Rouhani won outright with 18.6 million votes, or 50.68 percent. (ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images)

Moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani has won Iran's presidential election, Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar announced on state television Saturday.

Rouhani, 64, won just over 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a run-off in the surprisingly competitive race.

More from GlobalPost: Iran presidential election: Polls close after four-hour extension (PHOTOS)

Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf came in a distant second.

It was the country's first presidential election since 2009, which saw current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad controversially returned to power.

Iranian officials reported high voter turnout this time around, with an impressive 73 percent of the country's 50 million eligible voters casting ballots.

The campaign pitted three major conservatives against a candidate supported by reformers and moderates, with six total contenders handpicked by the country’s premier religious and political authority.

More from GlobalPost: Iran's moderate candidate gets key boost on election day

A moderate, Rouhani made a last minute jump in the polls as reformists threw their weight behind him, and because some conservatives say he appealed to them, too.

He wants to steer the country back toward moderation, promising to free political prisoners, to guarantee civil rights and promising to return "dignity to the nation." 

The state of Iran's economy was at the forefront of the election, as sanctions have put serious pressure on the country and both unemployment and inflation are rife.

Many voters remembered the bloody government response to the 2009 "Green Movement" following Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election, which saw many protesters and dissenters jailed.  

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/iran/130615/iran-elects-moderate-hassan-rouhani-new-president