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In final day before vote, Rouhani lashes out at Iran's hard-liners

In final day before vote, Rouhani lashes out at Iran's hard-liners

Tight race in Iran's presidential electionIranians will soon head to the polls to vote for the next president.

The Islamic Republic's first presidential election since the 2015 nuclear accord drew surprisingly large numbers of voters to polling stations, with some reporting waiting in line for hours to cast their votes.

"I respect the outcome of the vote of the people and the result will be respected by me and all the people", Raisi said after voting, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Nonetheless, the president could influence the selection process for the next supreme leader if Mr. Khamenei, said to be in ill health, were to pass away within the next four years.If re-elected, President Rouhani will "exert more effort to rid his country of the remaining sanctions", but the rivalry between conservative principlists and reformists will intensify, says Ali Hashem, a columnist for Al Monitor. His government negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw Iran accept curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling global sanctions. Although they may be imperfect by Western standards, they are the only means through which the Iranian people can voice their support or criticism of unelected pillars of the deep state.

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.

Iran's political system combines conservative clerical oversight and state control over large parts of the economy with tightly regulated but still hotly contested elections for key government posts.

Rouhani voted about an hour later. He is seen by many as close to Khamenei and has even been talked about as a possible successor to him.

Rouhani, a 68-year-old moderate cleric, has sought to frame the election as a choice between greater civil liberties and "extremism".




Speaking on May 8, Rohani said voters did not want someone who in the four decades since Iran's 1979 revolution has only known how to "execute and jail", adding that the era of extremists is over. Raisi would play the same subservient role if he wins. He is a leading expert on Iran and USA foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. "It comes after the country has resolved one of its major disputes with America (the nuclear issue), and my father told me that now there is no excuse for any candidate, pertaining to their good performance, in the next term", he said. Authorities barred Ahmadinejad from running in Friday's election, and Khamenei days ago warned anyone fomenting unrest "will definitely be slapped in the face".

Rohani has been blunt in references to the past of Raisi, a former member of the so-called death commissions involved in the summary executions of thousands of political prisoners in the 1980s.

If no candidate garners more than 50 percent of the votes, a run-off will be held on May 26 between the top two vote-getters.

Although Rouhani has an incumbent's advantage, his promised economic revival is seen by many as having fallen short of his stated goals, and he has been the target of unceasing and strong allegations of corruption. Unemployment remains stuck at more than 12 percent. He will meet with Sunni Arab leaders who are opposed to Iran's backing of Syrian President Bashar Assad and remain skeptical of its regional intentions.

Lined up in front of the mosque, Mohsen Namazi, 24, a bank clerk spirited by the high turn-out of the voters, constantly leaned back and forth, right and left, to observe the number of people in the queue and their passion for the occasion. "Now my colleagues can travel to France and the USA", she said.

At a campaign rally last week at the Azadi stadium in Tehran, Rouhani took to the stage and delivered a speech more worthy of an outsider than the incumbent.

Conventional wisdom in Washington is that Iran is a radical theocracy and its elections don't matter because real power is in the hands of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), who answer only to him and not to the elected branches of the Iranian government.

"We want freedom of the press", he declared.


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