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Iran heads to polls that tip Rouhani for second term

19 Mai 2017

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.

The withdrawal of other conservative candidates turned Friday's election into an unexpectedly tight, two-horse race between Rouhani, 68, and Raisi, a 56-year-old protege of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's ultimate authority.

During his election campaign, the republic had said that he would abandon the nuclear deal, although the White House renewed sanctions relief for Iran this week. Khamenei called Raisi a "trustworthy and highly experienced" person, causing many to wonder if he might also be a possible successor to the supreme leader himself.

Has Rouhani succeeded in reforming Iran? "I will vote for Raisi".

Rather than seeking to diffuse such tensions by sticking with the current nuclear deal, Raisi has talked of renegotiating it if elected.

In the last Iranian year ended March 20, the country's steel output increased 11% year on year to 18.46 mln mt and exports jumped 40.6% to 5.53 mln mt. Auto exports rose 37% year on year.

There are also two other minor candidates, Mostafa Mir-Salim, who represent the Islamic Coalition Party, a conservative political party that favors economic liberalism and Mostafa Hashemitaba, a reformist candidate close to the former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. Yet the supreme leader is traditionally expected to remain above the fray of day-to-day politics, and Khamenei has generally limited his comments about the election to calling for strong voter turnout.

"At the moment, we know that (the U.S. President Donald) Trump wants to get rid of it, but he can not, because Iran has not violated the deal. and it has done all its obligations", the expert said.

Raisi's candidacy is twice more delicate for being supported by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his linked apparatuses, such as the "Revolutionary Guards" and the judiciary.

Roughly speaking, engagement versus isolation is the choice that awaits the Iranians and the world depending on which candidate gets the job.

"One wrong decision by the president can mean war and a correct decision can mean peace", he said at his own Mashhad rally. It is unclear, however, what leverage Rouhani will have to press for such a change in long-standing Western sanctions policies absent a change in Iran's regional activities in areas of concern beyond the nuclear file. Inflation has dropped to single digits but unemployment is still rising.

No matter who voters are supporting, their number one demand is for the next president to make life more affordable.

Raisi has tapped into that frustration to attack Rohani for failing to translate the deal into better living standards for average Iranians. "I will vote for the candidate who has promised to triple cash handouts", the father of three in Tehran said, referring to Raisi.

Raisi is counting on populist promises to lift him above Rouhani.

President Hassan Rouhani faces a stiff challenge from Islamist hardliners, who are hoping to capitalise on those economic disappointments.

Rouhani enjoys the backing of former President Mohammad Khatami, who served from 1997 to 2005.

Forty-year-old Kamal, who has a degree in computer science from Sharif University in Tehran - one of the most prestigious universities in the country - is sitting on a boulder watching half a dozen kolbar prepare their loads for the arduous journey ahead.

A girl holds a poster of Iranian Presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi during a campaign rally in Tehran, Iran. Raisi is believed to be the favori.

"In the midst of this unsafe group (of countries), the Islamic Republic is preparing its elections amid safety and calm".

Rohani's supporters are warning that the future of their country is at stake and say they don't want to end up embroiled in conflict like some of their Middle Eastern neighbors.

While the reformists won't vote for Raisi, many may not bother to vote at all.

"You want to limit people's freedom".

The only real opposition to the tyrannical will of the Iranian Regime is the Resistance Forces, led by Maryam Rajavi, who unlike the Iranian President is actually elected.

More than 30 percent of Iran's 80 million population are under age 30 and women comprise more than half the population.

Iran heads to polls that tip Rouhani for second term