Iran’s interior minister announced Saturday that moderate candidate Hassan Rowhani had won outright election as the nation’s next president.Mostafa Mohammad Najjar told a news conference in Tehran that Rowhani obtained more than 50% of more than 36 million votes cast in Friday’s election. Even Rowhani’s inner circle did not predict an outright victory, though his campaign had been polling well in recent days and advisers noted a sense of momentum. Enthusiasm was especially strong among the young, women and middle-class urban voters disillusioned with the nation’s conservative leadership and the stalled economy. Rowhani also did well in voting from the seminary city of Qom, the nation’s religious hub, results showed.Though long regarded as a conservative-leaning cleric, Rowhani emerged in the last week of the campaign as a charismatic champion of reformist ideals, including enhanced personal freedoms, gender equality and artistic liberty. He also backed using foreign policy as a means to improve the nation’s free-falling economy, battered by Western-led sanctions tied to the nation’s controversial nuclear program.Improving the moribund economy was the major theme of all six candidates. (Courtesy L.A Times) Rowhani was the lone moderate candidate supported by reformists in a race that once appeared solidly in the hands of Tehran’s ruling clerics. He faced five other candidates viewed as more conservative. Many observers had assumed that one of his conservative rivals would likely emerge victorious, or at least make it into a runoff election. But instead the conservative vote was split, analysts said, opening the way for Rowhani to pull away from the pack.Only a week ago, Rowhani had been considered a long shot to make it into a runoff election. But he received the endorsement of a pair of former presidents, and a potential rival for reformist votes dropped out of the race, consolidating his prospective support. The victory of Rowhani, 64, a bespectacled, bearded jurist who has long been a member of the inner power circle of the Islamic Republic, was a huge surprise, reflecting several factors, including a tactically adept campaign and a fractured alliance among his hard-line opponents.