Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has secured the necessary majority in Friday’s election, defeating his conservative rival, Ebrahim Raisi, according to the country’s Interior Minister.

Rouhani has secured over 23.549 million votes, while Raisi has garnered around 15.786 million.

The rest of the candidates trailed far behind the front-runners, with Mostafa Mirsalim getting 478,215 votes and Mostafa Hashem Taba 219,450 votes at the latest count.

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. He lauded the huge turnout, thanking the citizens, Press TV reports.

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.

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.

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.

RT