NEW: Centrist candidate Rouhani is top vote-getter in very early results
State media reports about 70% voter turnout in a nation of 50 million eligible voters
If no candidate gets a majority, there will be a runoff next week
The last election resulted in bloody street protests known as the "Green Movement"
The lines extended into the streets at times Friday, as voters waited to pick their choice to succeed two-term President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the country’s 11th presidential election.
Some 70% of some 50 million registered voters – men and women, young and old – turned out according to state broadcaster Press TV, to pick a man who’ll deal with high-stakes challenges domestically and internationally.
And now the results are starting to trickle in.
Based on two sets of still very early results, centrist candidate Hassan Rouhani had more votes than any other candidate, Interior Ministry officials said early Saturday.
As of about 7:15 a.m. Saturday (10:45 p.m. ET Friday), Rouhani had 834,859 votes; Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf had 320,562; Saeed Jalili had 257,822; Mohsen Rezaei had 214,368; Ali-Akbar Velayati had 106,144; and Mohammad Gharazi had 25,324.
Even counted cumulatively, these votes represented a small fraction of the total vote. If the 70% turnout figure is correct, there would be about 35 million votes; the early results reflect about 1.76 million.
When the final tally does come in, that doesn’t necessarily mean the election is over. If no single candidate gets more than half the vote, the top two finishers will face off in a runoff next Friday, June 21.
That victor will take Ahmadinejad’s mantle as one of the most visible figures, at a time it’s dealing with widespread sanctions tied to international anger over its nuclear program.
But he won’t be Iran’s most powerful man. 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.
Earlier, British Prime Minister David Cameron told CNN’s Richard Quest that the international community “will have to deal with whatever the situation is.”
It was Iran’s Guardian Council, an unelected body made up of six clerics and six lawyers operating under the oversight of the supreme leader, that drew up the restricted list of candidates from the 680 who initially registered.
The final six contenders didn’t include any women. Nor did they include Ahmadinejad’s aide and protege Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, who was among those excluded by the Guardian Council.