June 23, 2017

Iranians report long lines at polls

20 May 2017, 02:15 | Taylor George

Ebrahim Raisi hardline challenger in Iran

Ebrahim Raisi hardline challenger in Iran

Four candidates are on the ballot, but the race is largely expected to come down to incumbent President Hassan Rouhani and conservative challenger Ebrahim Raisi.

Current president Hassan Rouhani is being challenged by conservative Ebrahim Raisi, who is close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"The enthusiastic participation of Iranians in the election reinforces our national power and security", said Rouhani after casting his vote.

Rouhani won 21.6 million votes in Friday's hard-fought contest, compared to 14 million for Raisi, with 37 million votes counted, the source said, adding about four million more votes were still to be tallied.

The three candidates running against Rouhani are Raisi, a cleric and former attorney general, Mostafa Hashemitaba, a pro-reform figure who previously ran for president in 2001, and Mostafa Mirsalim, a former culture minister. The Interior Ministry is scheduled to officially confirm the outcome later on Saturday.

Joyful voters cast their ballots for the presidential election at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 19, 2017.

Voting had been scheduled to run until 6 p.m. (3:30 p.m. Prague time), but was extended several times because of a "rush of voters" that caused lines to form at polling booths in various parts of the country. The race was transformed by the April entry of Raisi, whose background spurred speculation he was being groomed as an eventual successor to Iran's ultimate arbiter, the 77-year-old Khamenei.

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Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who cast his vote immediately after the polls opened, said, "Everyone should vote in this important election".

Iranians living in Canada eager to cast ballots in Friday's all-important presidential election were forced to cross the border to vote in the USA, or not vote at all.

People from 102 countries including Pakistan, India, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, China, Iraq, Turkey and Afghanistan casted their votes to elect new Iranian president.

Iranians will also be voting Friday for their local councils, with reformists particularly hoping to undo the conservatives' narrow majority in Tehran. "Rouhani gave everything to the US outright" in the nuclear deal.

He has pushed the boundaries over the past fortnight, criticising the continued arrest of reformist leaders and activists, and calling on security agencies not to interfere in the vote. That includes Rouhani openly criticizing hardliners and Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force now involved in the war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of votes cast, the top two candidates will compete in a run-off election on May 26.

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