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Iran: Supreme Leader’s Choice Faces Test of Ballot Boxes | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Iranian voters participate in the presidential elections/AFP

London- Iranians headed to the polls on Friday to choose their 12th President among four contenders.

The race, however, is expected to be limited to a reformist, incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, and his main challenger, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline cleric and former prosecutor-general.

Raisi’s candidacy is twice more delicate for being supported by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his linked apparatuses, such as the “Revolutionary Guards” and the judiciary.

Four eligible candidates out of the six chosen by the Iranian Guardian Council, are running in Friday’s elections – Conservative candidates Raisi and Mostafa Mirsalim, in addition to Rouhani and Mostafa Hashemitaba, who are moderates.

Earlier, two candidates announced pulling out from the race: First, Tehran’s hardline mayor Mohammed Baqer Ghalibaf, who pledged his support for Raisi, and then Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, a reformist supporting Rouhani.

According to some reports, Raisi, who might replace Khamanei as the next supreme leader, entered the presidential race to enhance his chances for later winning the seat of the number one man in the regime.

Friday’s elections come following long campaigns that saw unprecedented verbal attacks mainly between Rouhani and Raisi, who exchanged accusations on corruption, administrative and human rights violations and the economic and social crisis that has lately hit Iran.

If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the votes, a run-off will be held next week.

But, Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli expected the presidential race be settled during the first round.

Meanwhile, Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri, head of the auditing office of Khamenei, announced on Friday his resignation amid reports that his decision could be linked to a “a dismissal rather than a resignation.”

Last week, Nouri publicly endorsed Rouhani for the election.