Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is winning in Friday’s election, leading by over 4 million votes from his conservative rival, Ebrahim Raisi, Interior Ministry official Ali Asghar Ahmadi said in a televised briefing as the votes were still being counted.

Of the 25 million ballots counted so far, Rouhani has secured 14.619 million votes, while Raisi has garnered 10.125 million, the official said at the briefing. The rest of the candidates trailed far behind Rouhani and Raisi, with Mostafa Mirsalim getting 297,276 votes and Mostafa Hashem Taba 139,131 votes at the latest count.

The final results are to be announced later Saturday.

Earlier, the Interior Ministry reported that over 40 million ballots were cast by Iranians on Friday, indicating a turnout of 70 percent.

In the course of a bitterly-fought election campaign, Raisi enjoyed strong support from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard security force while Rouhani, regarded as a pro-reform candidate, appealed to voters who favored engagement over isolationism.

Although Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei did not officially back either of the candidates, it is believed he was leaning toward conservative Raisi.

Raisi, a former judicial official and prosecutor, sought to drum up support among poorer voters, dissatisfied with the government’s failure to revitalize the economy despite the partial lifting of western sanctions. He pledged to increase social security protection, raise welfare and housing benefits, and curb unemployment while touring rural regions.

A girl holds a poster of Iranian Presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi,Tehran, Iran, May 17, 2017. © Reuters

Rouhani came to power in the June 2013 presidential elections, succeeding hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a landslide victory.

It had been speculated that Ahmadinejad might run for office again, but he was reportedly discouraged from announcing his candidature by Khamenei.

One of Rouhani’s major achievements is considered to be the landmark nuclear deal struck between Iran and five permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany in 2015, which enabled the oil-rich country to escape most of the economic sanctions plaguing its economy and to boost oil production and exports. Rouhani is also credited with loosening some control over society.

Supporters of Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, Tehran, Iran, May 17, 2017. © Reuters

Following the casting of ballots on Friday, Rouhani said that its results would have a huge significance “for Iran’s future role in the region and the world,” as cited by Reuters.

Some feared that a Raisi victory might lead to a scrapping of the nuclear agreement and a return to a more stringent domestic policy.