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20 May 2017, 09:58 | Terri Saunders
A look at Iran's presidential candidates
Iranians have begun voting in a closely-fought presidential election that could determine Iran's pace of social and economic reform and its re-engagement with the world.
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.
State television showed long queues outside voting stations in several cities, shortly after polls opened at 03:30GMT.
Khamenei cast his ballot as polls opened, calling for Iranians to vote in large numbers. Many say they are yet to see the benefits of the nuclear deal, which saw Iran limit its contested nuclear program over the objection of hard-liners in exchange for the lifting of some sanctions.
But Raisi's lackluster performance in televised debates - and his role in approving the executions of thousands of political prisoners in the 1980s - turned off many voters. Rouhani remains the favorite of analysts as every Iranian president since Khamenei himself took the presidency in 1981 has won re-election.
Conservative candidates have thus promised to create five million more jobs, together with an increase of cash handouts to low earners. Raisi says he will stick by the nuclear deal, but points to a persistent economic slump as evidence Rouhani's diplomatic efforts have failed.
Raisi, however, has criticised the deal, accusing Rouhani of being "weak" in negotiations. But, Nephew said, if turnout is as high as expected, Rouhani should have little trouble securing his second term.
Rouhani has urged the Guards not to meddle in the vote, a warning that reflects the political tension.
According to a Guardian report, Iranian government officials will release a breakdown of the vote later on Saturday.
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Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's most powerful man and decision maker, symbolically cast the importance of the election's first vote and asked Iranians to go out and vote.
Whoever wins today's vote would help shape the choice of the next supreme leader and, in turn, the direction of the country.
"I think Rouhani has done great in foreign policy, and economically he has checked inflation", said Husain Bajdan, a spiky-haired 18-year-old who was lined up outside a mosque in southern Tehran to vote in his first election. Election officials extended voting hours at least three times at the more than 63,000 polling places to accommodate the crowds.
Raisi "has run a campaign focused on economic populist themes, but has not taken strong positions on many other issues", said Farzan Sabet, a fellow at Stanford University and founder of IranPolitik, a blog on Iranian politics.
Rouhani campaigned on the platform of an active foreign policy meant to enhance global relations, while Raisi vowed a strong economic management towards the elimination of poverty and unemployment.
In addition to the 12th presidential election and the fifth city and village council election, by-elections are also being held in the cities of Isfahan (in Isfahan), Maragheh, Ahar, Heris (in East Azarbaijan), Ajabshir, Bastak, Parsian and Bandar Lengeh (in Hormuzgan) to elect representatives for a number of vacant parliament seats. The results are expected 24 hours after the polls close.
A May 17 survey by the Washington, DC-based International Perspectives for Public Opinion Group - whose founder correctly predicted Rouhani's 2013 win - did forecast a clear victory for the incumbent.
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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