Counting Of Votes Underway After Iran’s Polling Stations Close

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“It’s my national responsibility to take part in the elections”, said 36-year-old Amin, a resident of Teheran and among Iran’s 56 million eligible voters, at a polling station.

Friday poll was the first since he negotiated a historic deal with world powers in 2015 to curb the country’s nuclear programme in exchange for sanctions relief.

Officials, faced with long queues of voters across the country, extended voting hours several times. “The fate of the country is in the hands of people who choose their chief executive”, he told reporters after voting.

Many pro-reform voters are still lukewarm Rouhani supporters, disappointed with the slow pace of change during his first term.

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

Voting stations opened in Iran at 8am local time (03:30 amGMT) on Friday for the 12th presidential and the fifth city and village councils elections in about 63,500 polling stations. Polls close at 6:00 p.m.

That, and general disaffection, could cost Mr Rouhani vital votes. “He kept the shadow of war far from our country”.

Rouhani openly criticised the human rights record of the authorities, speaking at rallies about “those who cut out tongues and sewed mouths shut”.

“The next president should not be someone who makes the enemies happy when he is elected”, said Kermani, who is an adviser to Khamenei.

He promised to heal the wounds of the previous presidential vote in 2009, when mass reformist protests were violently crushed after the disputed the re-election of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

That doesn’t mean it will be easy, however.

But the president faces strong competition from Raisi who has made grounds by positioning himself as a defender of the poor and calling for a much tougher line with the West. They had thrown their support behind Raisi to safeguard its interests. Raisi has even been discussed as a possible successor to him, though Khamenei has stopped short of endorsing anyone. He said that voters should also keep in mind that the election outcome is extremely important for the country’s foreign policy.

Mr Rouhani, 68, promised a moderate vision and an outward-looking Iran, and tied his success to the success of the nuclear deal brokered between Iran, the USA and other countries in 2015.

It came despite a Tuesday announcement by Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli that the election results would be declared after all the votes were counted.

Two other conservative candidates are still officially in the race.

Iranians overseas also will vote in over 300 locations, including 55 in the US, where more than 1 million Iranians live. He had attributed his success to the 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran, the USA and other countries.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is on course for a second term in office, preliminary results show.

Analysts have suggested a big election turnout could benefit Rohani, as high participation in the past has led to the election of reformist or moderate candidates. No woman has been approved to run for president. He is subordinate to the supreme leader, who is chosen by a clerical panel and has the ultimate say over all matters of state.

“He has just looked after the rich and people who are Western”.

Rowhani’s main rival of the four candidates is Ebrahim Raisi, an arch-conservative cleric and lawyer.

“I congratulate the great victory of the Iranian nation in creating a huge and memorable epic in the continuation of the path of “wisdom and hope”,” tweeted Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, referring to the government’s slogan.

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