emfizz.com January 20, 2018

Iran goes to the polls

20 May 2017, 01:11 | Patty Hardy

Iran goes to the polls

Supporters of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hold up his portrait during a campaign rally in the capital Tehran

But the relative calm of this year's election changed May 17 when President Hassan Rouhani issued one of his harshest criticisms of the country's conservative unelected bodies and his main conservative rival.

According to Iranian sources, more than 56 million are eligible to vote in this election which is the first since the country reached a landmark nuclear deal with the world in 2015.

So the Iranian economy continues to bump along the bottom and many people, who voted for Rouhani last time say they will sit this election out.

Rohani, who oversaw a breakthrough nuclear deal with world powers to ease worldwide sanctions, has promised engagement with the West and more freedom for Iranians.

"The destiny of the country is in the hand of Iranians", he told reporters as he voted in his compound in Tehran. Two other candidates also are running. While noting that the fate of Iranian-Western relations depends on the election results, Yeğin wrote that "Conservatives like [former Iranian President] Ahmedinejad will not give up directly attacking the system, nor will reformists or moderates who are trying to elect a name like President Rouhani as a new leader cease their fight within the system". He is seen by many as close to Khamenei and has even been talked about as a possible successor to him.

He continued by adding that in case of Rouhani being re-elected, the current foreign policy of Iran is to be maintained, while Sinkaya said, "Raisi has yet to clearly set forth his vision on foreign policy".

The effects of these moves are not yet clear: Rouhani can tout the nuclear deal as an achievement of his first term, but the hints of animosity from Washington may end up boosting Iranian voters' support for the more belligerent faction. Iran's president is subordinate but still powerful, with considerable influence over both domestic policy and foreign affairs. "And then if anything happens the other way, maybe we can say something".

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That, and general disaffection, could cost Mr Rouhani vital votes. "To show what I think without fearing from being in jail or something like that", she said.

Should Raisi win, Iran is expected to retreat from the kind of nascent worldwide engagement seen during Rouhani's first term, with a focus on growing its economy internally rather than looking for direct foreign investment. Mr Raisi has said he will not seek to tear up the nuclear deal. If no one candidate achieves an absolute majority - over 50% of the vote - a runoff will take place on May 26. He is a leading expert on Iran and United States foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council.

"This is a polarised election - a race between powerful unelected centres of power and the rest of the country", said analyst Hamid Farahvashian. For the average Iranian, the results have been lackluster, and Raisi has jumped upon this accusing Rouhani of sacrificing Iran's sovereignty for a fool's bargain. Unemployment remains stuck at more than 12 percent.

Lined up in front of the mosque, Mohsen Namazi, 24, a bank clerk spirited by the high turn-out of the voters, constantly leaned back and forth, right and left, to observe the number of people in the queue and their passion for the occasion.

Although the role of the Iranian president is limited and greatly dependent of the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, the parliament and the Revolution Guard it can also be for the one who is elected open the door of the Supreme Leader seat, the highest-ranking political and religious authority in the Islamic Republic of Iran that is chosen by the Assembly of Experts. With Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf pulling out of the race in favor of Ebrahim Raisi, conservatives are effectively moving towards unity and throwing their weight behind a single candidate-a feat they failed to accomplish four years ago but that is now more important than ever for them, especially with their eyes on the battle over succession to the supreme leader.

Supporters of the two leading candidates honked, blared music and held pictures of the hopefuls out of auto windows on the traffic-clogged and heavily policed streets of Tehran late into the night Thursday, ignoring a ban on campaigning in the final 24 hours before the vote.

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