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Rouhani leads Iran's presidential election, expected to win

20 May 2017, 02:02 | Darnell Patrick

Iranians determine future of reforms in presidential election

Iranians began voting Friday in the country's first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers as incum

Out of 26 million votes counted so far, he has won 14.6 million - or more than half, officials announced on state TV.

"Iranians and Iran just started gaining respect in the world under Rouhani and the economy is doing slightly better", said the 35-year-old, who declined to give his surname.

"I think Rouhani has done great in foreign policy, and economically he has checked inflation", said Husain Bajdan, a spiky-haired 18-year-old who was lined up outside a mosque in southern Tehran to vote in his first election.

For his part, Farhad Tajarri, the spokesman for the central committee tasked with monitoring the elections, said around 20 million people have cast their votes in the country's twin elections before the voting operation was extended two more hours.

Voters told NL Times that there were between 100 and 200 people standing in line to vote shortly after the Iranian Embassy in The Hague opened its doors at 8:00 a.m.

This race came down to a clear choice between the current moderate President Hassan Rouhani, whose promises for liberal reforms appeal to young people, and the hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, a populist who has promised his working-class base cash handouts and millions of jobs.

At a press conference, poll body chief Ali Asghar Ahmadi stressed that the results are preliminary, with final figures due to be announced on Saturday evening.

An Iranian woman flashes a victory sign as she waits to cast her ballot in the presidential elections at a polling station in Tehran on Friday.

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After casting his ballot, Rouhani said whomever the voters elect as president should receive all of the nation's support.

All other three candidates, including the frontrunner Ebrahim Raisi, a conservative leader, has said they are committed to the deal. Rouhani has been unable to secure the release of reformist leaders from house arrest, and media are barred from publishing the words or images of his reformist predecessor Khatami.

In 2013, Rouhani won the presidential election with almost 51 percent of the vote. In Qom, the heartland of Iranians clerics, around 78% of those eligible to vote showed up to vote, according to officials.

Raisi, his nearest challenger, is close to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, who stopped short of endorsing anyone in the election.

Many pro-reform voters are still lukewarm Rouhani supporters, disappointed with his failure to make broader changes during his first term.

Rouhani voted about an hour later. Rouhani advocates the foreign investment promised by the nuclear deal but which has been held up by concerns over remaining punitive sanctions.

The re-elected president will also have to navigate a tricky relationship with Washington, which appears at best ambivalent about the nuclear accord signed by former US president Barack Obama. That includes Rouhani openly criticizing hard-liners and Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force now involved in the war in Syria and the fight against Islamic State militants in neighboring Iraq.



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