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Iran votes in first presidential election since nuclear deal

20 May 2017, 01:12 | Megan Pierce

The high stakes of Iran's presidential election

APTOPIX Mideast Iran Nuclear Talks

But the relative calm of this year's election changed May 17 when President Hassan Rouhani issued one of his harshest criticisms of the country's conservative unelected bodies and his main conservative rival.

In certain areas in the capital city of Iran, long queues outside the polling stations on Friday morning mark the keynote vote for the country's most celebrated election.

Authorities say the number of eligible voters stands at above 56,400,000, more than 1,350,000 of whom are allowed to vote for the first time.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei hailed the elections as the sign of democracy and urged the Iranians to go to the polling stations to vote at the earliest time.

The Guards hope that a win for Raisi will give them an opportunity to claw back economic and political power lost in Shi'ite Iran's complex theocratic and republican governing structure since 2015, when Iran struck a nuclear deal with world powers that brought it out of global isolation.

Under Iran's constitution, the supreme leader has final say on all state matters.

In addition, as nearly all the political oppositions had been wiped out since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, even if they have differences in their programs, the presidential candidates are all different branches of the same tree.

"This can be the result of a conclusion reached by the hardliner camp from the 2013 presidential election where their chances were hurt with none of their candidates willing to step aside in favor of their all-out interests". Raisi's name has also come up as a possible successor to the 77-year-old Khamenei.

Iranians vote in a four-man presidential race on May 19 that could reinvigorate efforts for an economic and diplomatic thaw with the West or draw the curtain on a four-year interlude in hard-line domination at all levels of government.

That, and general disaffection, could cost Mr Rouhani vital votes.

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Reform-minded supporters recognize that Rouhani isn't ideal - he too, after all, is also a cleric.

"We have no other way, but to endear a tolerant space, to accept each other's existence, to live up with diverse opinions and tastes, then to grow up as a descent mother, father or politician for the good of next generation", Taherkhani, the master's graduate of social science from Tehran's Azad Markazi University, argued.

"One wrong decision by the president can mean war and a correct decision can mean peace", he said at his own Mashhad rally. Raisi would play the same subservient role if he wins. Mr Raisi allegedly served on a panel involved in sentencing the prisoners to death.

At home, he faces a conservative backlash that condemns his opening to the West and (implicitly) his nuclear deal. He is a leading expert on Iran and U.S. foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. According to the rules, if no candidate wins at least 50 percent of the votes plus one, the election enters a second phase: A run-off between the top two candidates.

Some 350,000 members of the security forces were deployed around the country to protect the election, state television reported. For the average Iranian, the results have been lackluster, and Raisi has jumped upon this accusing Rouhani of sacrificing Iran's sovereignty for a fool's bargain. Raisi is also the custodian of the Imam Reza shrine in Mashad, the most visited and important holy site in Iran, and has strong base of support among rural, religious, poor and hardline clerics.

"From the Revolutionary Guards to Friday prayer leaders, the hardline, unelected part of the establishment backs Raisi", a senior former Iranian official told Reuters. "We proceed from the assumption that the relations between our two countries should preserve positive dynamics and historical ties that we had developed", she said.

One of the most risky regimes on the planet - the Islamic Republic of Iran - will hold presidential elections today.

Supporters of the two leading candidates honked, blared music and held pictures of the hopefuls out of auto windows on the traffic-clogged and heavily policed streets of Tehran late into the night Thursday, ignoring a ban on campaigning in the final 24 hours before the vote.

"We all want to show that we want to have freedom".



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