Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, called the election a "sham". That was clear from the throngs of chanting, clapping and dancing supporters who poured into Tehran's streets to celebrate his victory.
Sitting above everything is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, arguably the biggest check on Rouhani.
A few years later, the unclenching of Iran's fist was marked by the election of reformist Hassan Rouhani and the entry of Iran into negotiations with the United States and five other powers, leading to a detailed agreement in which Iran accepted severe limitations on, and intrusive scrutiny of, its nuclear program and closed all possible pathways to possible acquisition of a nuclear weapon. This could place Iran and the United States in direct confrontation which could in turn impact Iraq, where more than 5,000 USA troops are vulnerable to Iranian-linked militias. That would "make it even more complicated for Trump to try to renegotiate the nuclear deal", Nuseibeh said. This increasingly risks drawing the U.S. into the conflict as a more direct participant, particularly in Syria, a trajectory that recent history suggests has little stabilising potential.
Rouhani also pushed boundaries during the campaign by taking unusually pointed swipes at hard-liners within the Iranian establishment.
Iraqis and Syrians have together fought the so-called Islamic State group with Iran's support, Rouhani said, adding that without Iran no regional security and stability is foreseeable. Rouhani brings in the revenue that Iran's military needs to continue expanding its regional influence and intervene in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Bahrain, Yemen and elsewhere. The conservative hawk adamantly led nuclear development that resulted in tougher economic sanctions from the USA and Europe. The International Monetary Fund estimates unemployment at around 12 percent but some analysts say the figure could be as high as 20 percent; among the volatile group of young people under the age of 25, the figure is much higher.
The Iranian president has pledged to reform and revive the country's ailing economy, and do so by continuing his efforts to attract foreign investment and boosts global trade - a direction that has now been widely approved by the Iranian people.
Qassemi also rejected as "baseless" USA allegations that Iran supports terrorism, saying Tehran is well-known for its forceful and indefatigable fight against terrorism.
Rouhani also criticized Saudi Arabia after it just hosted President Donald Trump's first foreign trip, saying that the kingdom "has never seen a ballot box" while Iran just hosted a successful presidential election in which over 40 million people voted.
The president's central message to the Gulf States and their assembled allies was one of partnership in the anti-ISIS fight, intimating that the USA will not push them on internal governance issues.
As for the Trump administration? Saudi Arabia immediately cut diplomatic ties and other Sunni Arab countries in the Gulf have taken a harder line on Iran since.
However, most predict the hard-liners will step up their opposition as 2021 approaches, aiming to replace the president with one of their own.