Former Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has described the election of reformist candidate Masoud Pezeshkian as an opportunity to revive negotiations with the West on the country’s nuclear programme.

Pezeshkian won Iran’s presidential election after beating his ultra-conservative rival Saeed Jalili in a run-off vote on Saturday. Iran’s electoral authority said that Pezeshkian, a former health minister, received 53.7% of the votes cast to Jalili’s 44.3%.

The Shargh newspaper quoted Rouhani, who was president from 2013 to 2021 and is widely seen as a centrist, as calling Pezeshkian’s victory a “popular referendum in favour of productive dealings with the global community.”

Citing parliamentary delegates, Shargh reported that Pezeshkian would be sworn in on August 4 or 5. He would then have 15 days to present his Cabinet for approval by parliament, where hardliners have a majority, on August 22.

Following the elections, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for the political rivalry between the two candidates to be converted to friendship, but observers see cooperation between conservatives and moderates as unlikely.

Like many politicians from the reformist camp, Pezeshkian has called for improved relations with the West in order to boost Iran’s flailing economy.

Speaking on Saturday, he said the aim now was to “overcome the various challenges and crises.” Among those challenges are Iran’s isolation on account of its nuclear programme, with trade sanctions imposed and access to the global financial system curtailed.

Iran has been suffering from an economic crisis since the United States imposed new sanctions on the country in 2018 after president Donald Trump’s administration withdrew from a landmark nuclear agreement.

According to observers, a resumption of nuclear negotiations to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons is the only political option to achieve a lifting of sanctions and improve the situation.

But in view of the complex political situation and powerful interest groups in Iran, it is unclear to what extent Pezeshkian can effect significant change.

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