Iran extends voting deadline in presidential election

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Iranians continued voting into the evening on Friday in the country’s first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers, as incumbent Hassan Rouhani looked to fend off a staunch challenge from a hard-line opponent.

The agency claimed that presidential election exit polls until afternoon suggest that the reformist candidate Hassan Rouhani enjoys the lead in 12 Iranian provinces while Ebrahim Raisi, representing the conservative camp, is ahead in the poll in 15 provinces.

Amid the elections’ high voter turnout, a newly-wed couple celebrated the beginning of their married life by casting their ballot on their wedding day.

There are no booths in Iranian polling stations, and voting often turns into a communal activity as people discuss their choices openly and help each other fill out the forms, which must be written by hand. State television showed lengthy queues forming outside polling stations in several cities and said 56 million Iranians out of the more than 80-million-strong population were eligible to vote.

Press TV staff casts their ballots for Iran’s 2017 elections.

“You see they are participating and my advice is that more and more people participate and come to the polls at the earliest time possible”. The Guards hope that a win for Raisi will give them an opportunity to claw back economic and political power lost in Shi’ite Iran’s complex theocratic and republican governing structure since 2015, when Iran struck a nuclear deal with world powers that brought it out of worldwide isolation. Of the six candidates approved, two have since dropped out.

“It’s over, Rouhani is the victor”, a source told Reuters. If no candidate wins at least 50% of the vote, there will be a runoff next Friday, May 26.

However, Rouhani has history on his side: no sitting president has failed to win a second term since 1981. Rouhani gained a reprieve on Wednesday when Washington agreed to continue waiving nuclear-related sanctions, keeping the deal on track for now.

It is clear that a key factor for the regime’s criterion for selection of its favoured candidate for presidency for the next four years chiefly rests on the critical importance of safeguarding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed with the U.S.in January 2016.

Under the motto “Where’s My Vote?” demonstrators filled the streets of Tehran and elsewhere and became involved in increasingly violent exchanges with authorities.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cast his ballot just minutes after polls opened at 8:00 am (0330 GMT). In the Netherlands Dutch-Iranians can vote at the Iranian embassy in The Hague. The polling stations will be open until 19:00 hours, local time, but they might extend their operations if there is a high turnout.

Still, while Khamenei, together with the other heads of the ruling system, is in charge of defining Iran’s “red lines” on all foreign policy matters, the president has a role in framing the tactic adopted to meet these red lines. Meanwhile, Raisi has promised to triple cash handouts to the poor, hoping to pick up voters that once supported Ahmadinejad.

Raisi has focused his campaign on the economy, visiting rural areas and villages and promising housing, jobs and more welfare benefits, a message which could resonate with millions of poor voters angry at the Tehran elite.

Rouhani won the 2013 election amid promises to expand freedom of speech and strengthen the country’s economy, but this year’s election will be a test of that vision’s popularity among voters.

In Iran, the president has considerable influence – even though he is always constrained by the supreme leader, who has control of a range of unelected military and religious bodies.

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