Iran: Rouhani leads initial count; over 70 percent turnout

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While the final, official count is still not released, sources within the Iranian government say that President Hassan Rouhanii has an insurmountable lead in today’s presidential election, and will easily secure victory over hardline candidate Ebrahim Raisi.

The election is the first since the landmark nuclear deal in 2015 that resulted in significant limits on Tehran’s most sensitive nuclear activities – which many in the West believed were part of an effort to build atomic weapons – in exchange for sanctions relief.

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. Polls close at 6:00 p.m.

Many Iranians described waiting hours to vote. “He kept the shadow of war far from our country”. “At least Rouhani has stabilized the economy and he can open up our country to the global community”.

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

Rouhani has sought to frame the election as a choice between greater civil liberties and “extremism”.

Despite President Trump’s pledges to “rip up” the Iran deal, the Trump administration’s State Department allowed the deal to continue this past week by continuing to waive sanctions on Iran.

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

Raisi is widely seen as Khamenei’s preferred candidate – indeed, he is often mentioned as his possible successor.

One Rouhani supporter warmly welcomed the news, but said she expected him to provide greater social and economic freedoms, pledges he made when first elected in a landslide in 2013 by Iranians tired of economic decline and clampdowns on dissent.

After voting, Raisi told journalists that all should “completely surrender to the result of the election”.

Voters show their ink-stained fingers outside a polling station for the presidential election in Tehran.

Two other candidates also are running. More than 54 million people are eligible to vote.

Thirty-eight years ago, revolutionary Iranian students held 52 Americans hostage in the US embassy.

Realities like the nuclear deal, which was backed by millions of voters in Iran who hope it was the first step toward even stronger ties with the U.S.

“The last two decades of presidential elections have been short days of euphoria followed by long years of disillusionment”, said Karim Sadjadpour, senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment who focuses on Iran.

Jonah Hull of Al Jazeerareported from Tehran that large crowd numbers at the polls “would tend to favor the moderate reformist side of President Rouhani, and anything less than 60% would spell trouble for him”. No woman has been approved to run for president. He oversees a vast state bureaucracy employing more than 2 million people, is charged with naming Cabinet members and other officials to key posts, and plays a significant role in shaping both domestic and foreign policy.

Ultimately, it is the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who holds sway over Iran’s foreign policy.

The race has heated emotions and pushed public discourse in Iran into areas typically untouched in the tightly controlled state media.

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

At recent rallies, his supporters chanted for reformist leaders who have been under house arrest since 2011.

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