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Iranians vote to elect new president

Nearly 60 million eligible voters in Iran will decide the fate of four candidates in the fray to succeed President Hassan Rouhani.

Polls have opened in Iran’s presidential election amid concerns of a low turnout with the conservative head of the judiciary, Ebrahim Raisi, widely seen as the frontrunner.

Nearly 60 million eligible voters in Iran will decide the fate of four candidates in the fray to succeed President Hassan Rouhani. The Guardian Council, a 12-member constitutional vetting body, under Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei barred hundreds of candidates, including reformists and those aligned with Rouhani.

Polls opened at 7am local time (2:30 GMT) and will close at midnight (19:30 GMT) but can be extended for two hours. The results are expected about midday on Saturday.

With uncertainty surrounding Iran’s efforts to revive its 2015 nuclear deal and growing poverty at home after years of United States sanctions, the turnout for the vote is being seen by Iranian analysts as a referendum on the leadership’s handling of an array of crises.

“Each vote counts … come and vote and choose your president … this is important for the future of your country,” said Khamenei after casting his vote in the capital, Tehran.

Al Jazeera’s Dorsa Jabbari, reporting from the capital ,Tehran, said that there’s lot of support behind Raisi, who is currently the head of the country’s judiciary.

“The general public has one thing on their mind that they want some change from the moderate and reformist government they have seen over the past eight years,” she said.

“There is a sense that the economic situation in the country is not going to change any time soon. So they are hoping Raisi will bring some kind of change.”

State television showed long queues outside polling stations in several cities.

State-linked opinion polling and analysts put hardline judiciary chief Raisi, 60, as the frontrunner. If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the US government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticised judiciary – one of the world’s top executioners.

Raisi, wearing a black turban that identifies him in Shia tradition as a direct descendant of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, later voted from a mosque in southern Tehran, waving to those gathered to cast ballots.

Raisi casts his vote at a polling station in Tehran [Majid Asgaripour/WANA via Reuters]

A win for Raisi would confirm the political demise of pragmatist politicians like Rouhani, weakened by the US decision to quit the nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions in a move that stifled rapprochement with the West.

But it would not disrupt Iran’s bid to revive the agreement and break free of tough oil and financial sanctions, Iranian officials say, with the country’s ruling elite aware their political fortunes rely on tackling worsening economic hardship.

Former Central Bank chief, Abdolnaser Hemmati, is running as the race’s moderate candidate but has not inspired the same support as outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, who is term-limited from seeking the office again.

The remaining two candidates are 66-year-old hardliner Mohsen Rezaei and Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, a longtime member of parliament from Mashhad.

Tensions remain high with both the US and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites and assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic programme decades earlier.

Reference