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Iran's re-engagement with the world at stake in Friday presidential vote

19 May 2017

Jahangiri issued a statement on Tuesday, saying he made a decision to enter the presidential race at senior reformists' discretion and after consultation with President Rouhani to elucidate the country's situation "at the beginning and along the path that we have taken".

The reformist candidate has dropped out of Iran's presidential election and thrown his support behind President Hassan Rouhani, in a widely expected move that will strengthen the incumbent's campaign against a hard-liner.

On Monday, Tehran's hardline mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf withdrew his candidacy and urged his supporters to back conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi.

Rouhani's signature accomplishment has been his nuclear deal, which could be in jeopardy if he loses power, even though it was officially endorsed by Khamenei and all candidates say they will abide by it. This is not accidental: Economic issues are by far the top concern among Iranian voters, and survey results have shown that Iranians are disappointed with Rouhani's ability to turn the economy around after signing the nuclear deal.

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Pedestrians walk under an electoral banner of presidential candidate Ebraim Raisi in a square in downtown Tehran, Iran, Thursday, May 11, 2017. The run-up to Iran's race is now between two conservative candidates, Ebrahim Raisi and Mostafa Mirsalim, in addition to two moderates: Rouhani and Mostafa Hashemitaba.

"Every president since the revolution has won re-election (i.e. enjoyed sufficient popular and deep state support) for a second term".

Rumors about Khamenei's health have swirled for years, and Raisi's appointment appeared to signal confidence in the younger cleric and that he was being groomed for Iran's most powerful post.

Most Iranians have yet to see the benefits of the nuclear deal.

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The main challenger Raisi is a close ally and protege of Khamenei, and was one of four Islamic judges who ordered the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. A few hours later, Jahangiri announced his withdrawal from the presidential race in favor of incumbent President Hassan Rouhani.

According to Ali Asghar Ahmadi, the head of the Interior Ministry's State Elections Committee, a total of 56,410,234 Iranians can cast their ballots in the election this year.

This election marked Qalibaf's third presidential campaign, having previously lost running to the left of hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005 and to the right of Rouhani in 2013.

A high turnout could also boost the chances of Rouhani, who was swept to power in 2013 on promises to reduce Iran's worldwide isolation and grant more freedoms at home. "In Tehran, his votes will go mainly to Rouhani but outside Tehran his supporters will vote for Raisi".

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