TEHRAN — As Iranians responded to the victory of the cleric Hassan Rowhani in the country’s presidential race over the weekend by erupting into street parties not seen in many years, it almost seemed as if some sort of reformist revolution could be under way.
Across the country, drivers honked horns, men danced to pop music and women clapped, celebrating Mr. Rowhani’s campaign pledges to bring more freedom and better relations with the outside world.
But Mr. Rowhani, 64, is no renegade reformist, voted in while Iran’s leaders were not paying attention. Instead, his political life has been spent at the center of Iran’s conservative establishment, from well before Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini led the Islamic Revolution in the 1970s. And analysts say that Mr. Rowhani’s first priority will be mediating the disturbed relationship between that leadership and Iran’s citizens, not carrying out major change.
Even his nickname — “the diplomat sheik” — is testament to his role as a pragmatist seeking conciliation for the Islamic leadership. Whether in dealing with protesting students, the aftermath of devastating earthquakes or, in his stint as nuclear negotiator, working to ease international pressure as Iran moved forward with its nuclear program, Mr. Rowhani has worked to find practical ways to help advance the leadership’s goals.