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Polls open in first Iran presidential vote since atomic deal

19 May 2017

"Hence, we continue to contend that Iran is one of the most underappreciated upside oil price risks in the oil market", she said.

The Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, has already labelled anyone who protests during the election an "enemy" and threatened violence against them, while Ali-Asghar Ahmadi, the head of the regime's State Election Committee, and Hassan Karami, head of the police special commandos, have both reported that the size of the repressive police forces have grown significantly in the run-up to the election.

This suggests a higher voter turnout compared to the previous presidential polls four years ago.

The president does have considerable leeway to enact policy at home and overseas, by appointing thousands of officials in the country and building a significant power base. That accord was done with Khamenei's blessing. No woman has been approved to run for president.

Another two candidates, Mostafa Hashemitaba and Mostafa Mir-Salim, are also in the running but are both predicted to score less than one per cent of the vote.

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His opponent says he will stick by the nuclear deal, but points to a persistent economic slump as evidence Rouhani's diplomatic efforts have failed.

The campaign was replete with caustic televised debates and bruising broadsides. However, Iran's sluggish economy and poverty remain the top issues for average Iranians who have yet to see the benefits of the atomic accord.

The contest is between moderate incumbent Hassan Rouhani (68), who has opened Iran to external trade and investment, and conservative hardliner Ebrahim Raisi (56), who seeks to install a "resistance" or "self-sufficient economy" and shun external financial entanglements. This leaves the principlist Raisi, who is very close to current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, as Rouhani's strongest competitor.

If he loses to Mr Raisi, the deal could be jeopardised. Raisi also has promised monthly cash payments to the poor, a populist move that's been popular with Iranian voters in the past. However, his candidacy has revived the controversy surrounding the 1988 mass execution of thousands in Iran.

Surprisingly, Islam. "Candidates have seemingly concluded that Islamic ideology has lost its power as a driving factor among voters and is therefore not worth addressing", wrote Mehdi Khalaji, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who is Shiite theologian by training.

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The key question is whether Iranians still buy Rouhani's moderate agenda - or whether they're willing to elect a conservative president who could undo recent progress and once again isolate Iran from the world.

"The U.S. and its partners will continue to apply pressure on Iran to protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms for everyone in Iran", said Stuart Jones, the acting assistant secretary of state for near eastern affairs, who will be traveling with President Donald Trump to the Middle East at the end of the week. To cast a ballot, they must go to one of 63,500 polling centers set up around the country in mosques, schools and other public buildings. Around 14,000 mobile ballot boxes have been also prepared for inaccessible and rural areas.

Voting is scheduled to run until 6 p.m., though Iran routinely extends voting for several hours in elections.

He also says a hardline victory could put Iran back on a more confrontational, economically damaging course with the West, and would prevent the opening of society that a majority of Iranians, especially the youth, yearn to see. Iran bars domestic and global observers from the elections, bucking a widely accepted principle around the world that worldwide watchdogs warn can allow for fraud. In the tapes, the grand Ayatollah told Raisi and other members of the "Death Commission" that "the greatest crime committed during the Islamic Republic, for which history will condemn us, has been committed by you". It holds elections and has elected representatives passing laws and governing on behalf of its people. But he remains subordinate to the supreme leader, who is chosen by a clerical panel and has the ultimate say over all matters of state.

That hasn't stopped those at Rouhani rallies from shouting for the house-arrested leaders of the 2009's Green Movement. Security forces answering only to the supreme leader also routinely arrest dual nationals and foreigners, using them as pawns in worldwide negotiations.

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