The Guards, who oversee an economic empire worth billions of dollars, are seldom criticised in public, but the pragmatist Rouhani is locked in an unexpectedly tight race against hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who is believed to have their support.
Khamenei hasn't officially endorsed Raisi, but he has kept up criticism of Rouhani, which is at least marking out what Iran's Supreme Leader expects from a second-term Rouhani. Although Iran's economy, under Rouhani's watch, has experienced modest growth following the lifting of sanctions early a year ago, many of his government policies have yet to translate into tangible benefits for millions of ordinary Iranians.
He may be the ultimate insider, but Hassan Rouhani is running like the anti-establishment candidate.
However, if Raisi is chosen, because of "his anti-Americanism, because of his anti-westernism, the ties with the United States will further suffer" and Iran may even lose the support of other parties involved in the deal, the expert said. "I will vote for the candidate who has promised to triple cash handouts", the father of three in Tehran said, referring to Raisi.
When Aparat removed a video from Khatami backing reformist parliamentary candidates in the February 2016 elections, it posted a note explaining that it had been ordered to do so by Iran's principal online filtering body, the Taskforce to Determine Instances of Criminal Content. Nevertheless, as The World Weekly went to press, polls put Mr. Rouhani in the lead. "First tell me how did you manage Mashhad?"
ZEINAB ASGHARPOUR, Rouhani Campaign Volunteer (through interpreter): These last days can make a huge difference.
"Some people say that if we're elected, the sanctions will return", said Raisi.
The election is largely viewed as a referendum on the nuclear deal struck with world powers and shepherded by Rouhani's administration. Every Iranian president since 1981 has won re-election. "This is exactly what many countries lack, but our nation has and shows that they have learned from past experiences".
Iran's presidential elections take place on May 19. Picture taken May 17, 2017. From the young age of eighteen, Raisi was a deputy prosecutor in Tehran and has always maintained top positions in the Iranian judiciary, signing orders of execution for thousands of political opponents.
"Raisi is basically the custodian of the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad", the analyst said.
The religious conglomerate, whose economic arm lists 36 subsidiary companies and institutes on its website, owns mines, textile factories, a pharmaceutical plant and even a major oil and gas firm. "Raisi has lots of power".
The Guards are looking beyond Friday's election and see Raisi as a possible candidate to be the next supreme leader, analysts say. Raisi is rumored to be the IRGC's preferred choice for supreme leader when Khamenei, 77, passes.
Some observers of Iran calculate that the West would be better off with a victory by Mr. Raisi, who would likely return Iran to global isolation and fuel domestic discontent. The government crushed the protests, but the color green sits next to the Rouhani campaign's purple banners, still symbolizing the demand for democratic change.
Incumbent First Vice President Jahangiri declined to continue the race and urged his supporters to vote for the outgoing head of State, Hassan Rouhani, while Tehran Mayor Ghalibaf did the same in favor of Ebrahim Raeisi.
It's an election that will pit liberals vs. conservatives, determine domestic policy, and shape Iran's relations with the West.
"Raisi knows his way in the dark corridors of Iranian politics very well".
According to US intelligence estimates and the analysis of Iranian opposition groups, the "nuclear accord dividend" has been siphoned off by the state's instruments of violence and repression, including a huge budget increase to the brutal Iranian Revolutionary Guard, massive expenditures in ballistic missile development and ongoing interference in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.
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