Presidential election in iran: the rush was great

Will President Rouhani secure a second term in office – or will he be threatened by hardliner Raisi? The question of who should be their next president has brought more Iranians to the polls than expected. The polling stations stayed open until late in the evening.

For the first time since the agreement on a nuclear deal with the world powers in 2015, Iran has elected a new president. Because of the large crowds, the polling stations stayed open longer. The 56 million eligible voters had to decide whether to have moderate President Hassan Rouhani in office for four more years or to pull a hardliner back into power.

In the morning the Supreme Leader of the country, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, symbolically cast the first vote. Many queues in front of the ballot boxes in Tehran and other cities were significantly longer than in the previous presidential election in 2013, as reporters from the AP news agency observed. At least three times, the opening times at the more than 63,000 polling stations were extended so that everyone had the chance to cast their votes.

Rouhani vs. Raisi

The fact that there was a high turnout, especially in Tehran, should play into Ruhani‚Äôs cards. The city’s liberal and wealthy residents are considered the base of its following. The 68-year-old’s strongest opponent among the three other candidates is the conservative clergyman Ebrahim Raisi.

The 56-year-old law professor and former public prosecutor heads an influential religious foundation. He is said to be close to Khamenei, who had already described him as "trustworthy and very experienced". However, Khamenei did not publicly support any of the candidates.

Complaint about alleged irregularity

Raisi’s camp filed a complaint about alleged electoral irregularities before the polling stations closed, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent in the first round of voting, a runoff election will take place on May 26th.

Since 1981, no incumbent president in Iran has failed to win re-election. Khamenei called on the Iranians to participate actively in his vote. "The fate of the country is in the hands of everyone," he said. Rouhani also cast his vote early. He warned that the candidate who is elected should receive all of the country’s support. "Everyone who is elected must be helped from tomorrow with unity, happiness and joy," he said. Raisi pointed out that everyone should accept the election result. "For example, if I think the result is undesirable, it shouldn’t disrupt the election," he said.

Man sets fire to himself in protest

Abroad, too, Iranian citizens vote in more than 300 locations, including many in the United States, where more than a million Iranians live. In Thailand, an Iranian man set himself on fire in front of his country’s embassy in Bangkok to protest the election. He was burned all over his body and taken to a hospital. The election is seen as a kind of referendum on Rouhani’s moderate policy, which, despite resistance from hardliners, paved the way for an international nuclear deal.

However, many residents of the country have not yet felt much of the advantages of the nuclear deal. In the course of the agreement, Iran had agreed to restrict its nuclear program – in return, sanctions were reduced.

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