On Thursday, Iranian Interior Ministry officially announced the names of incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, Ebrahim Raisi, Mostafa Agha-Mirsalim and Mostafa Hashemi Taba as the four hopefuls for the Friday presidential election.
The voting process is set to continue until 20:00 local time.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most powerful man in Iran, symbolically cast the election's first vote.
President Rouhani's power is vastly outweighed by that of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The nuclear deal brokered with the USA and European Union has been called into question by the Trump administration, and the lifting of sanctions has not created economic opportunities many had hoped for.
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"This can be the result of a conclusion reached by the hardliner camp from the 2013 presidential election where their chances were hurt with none of their candidates willing to step aside in favor of their all-out interests".
The incumbent, relative moderate Hassan Rohani, and a conservative former prosecutor, Ebrahim Raisi, are widely regarded as the presidential front-runners in the clerically dominated Islamic country of around 81 million people, which is laboring under high unemployment and struggling to seize economic opportunities overseas. Raisi has even been discussed as a possible successor to him, though Khamenei has stopped short of endorsing anyone. And while Rouhani had a strong performance in the third debate, he may be badly wounded due to the serious corruption allegations made against himself as well as his closest associates, including against his brother and his vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri. Although there are a lot of commentaries in the media both in Iran and internationally about the outcome of this election, one key point is clear and undisputed - that none of the opposition forces are allowed to take part in this election. "We're not opposed, but do not crowd out other people".
Speaking on May 8, Rohani said voters did not want someone who in the four decades since Iran's 1979 revolution has only known how to "execute and jail", adding that the era of extremists is over.
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.
Iranians overseas also will vote in over 300 locations, including 55 in the USA, where more than 1 million Iranians live.
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Rohani has been blunt in references to the past of Raisi, a former member of the so-called death commissions involved in the summary executions of thousands of political prisoners in the 1980s. "It comes after the country has resolved one of its major disputes with America (the nuclear issue), and my father told me that now there is no excuse for any candidate, pertaining to their good performance, in the next term", he said. But if the leading candidates' votes were to be less than 50 percent, the lead and the runner-up would then go for a second round. Authorities barred Ahmadinejad from running in Friday's election, and Khamenei days ago warned anyone fomenting unrest "will definitely be slapped in the face". 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, meanwhile, remains stuck in the double digits, with almost a third of Iranian youth out of work, according to the International Monetary Fund.
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. "We proceed from the assumption that the relations between our two countries should preserve positive dynamics and historical ties that we had developed", she said.
It's not correct to say the difference between them is insignificant: Mr. Rouhani, embraced by Iran's educated middle class, favors more relaxed enforcement of Islamic rule at home and engagement with Western investors overseas, while opponent Ebrahim Raisi is a populist who rails against foreign influence and predicts the "Zionist regime" of Israel will be "wiped. from Jerusalem". On the last day of campaigning, candidates were out trying to rally support.
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