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Iranians head to polls in tight presidential race

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Iranians head to polls in tight presidential race

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani staked his political future on opening Iran ever so slightly to the outside world and overcoming hard-liners' opposition to secure a nuclear deal in exchange for relief from crippling sanctions.

According to Iranian sources, more than 56 million are eligible to vote in this election which is the first since the country reached a landmark nuclear deal with the world in 2015.

Millions of Iranians have joined long queues to vote, a sign of strong turnout in an unexpectedly tight presidential election that could determine the future of the country's nascent emergence from worldwide isolation.

In addition to the unprecedented attacks on Raisi, Rouhani also used the speech to attack the heads of unelected bodies who are appointed to their positions by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Rouhani gained a reprieve on Wednesday when the administration of US President Donald Trump agreed to continue waiving nuclear-related sanctions, keeping the deal on track for now.

"The destiny of the country is in the hand of Iranians", he told reporters as he voted in his compound in Tehran.

"Any candidate who is elected should be helped to accomplish this heavy responsibility", Rouhani said.

In an interview with Sputnik Persian, Russian political analyst Nikolai Kozhanov said that Moscow is not particularly concerned about the results of the presidential elections in Iran, which kicked off on Friday.

Incumbent President Hassan Rouhani and conservative Ebrahim Raisi, the main rivals in the race, are both confidants of the Islamic establishment but represent different schools of political thoughts. Raisi has even been discussed as a possible successor, though Khamenei has stopped short of endorsing anyone. "I believe that the presidential election is very important".

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He continued by adding that in case of Rouhani being re-elected, the current foreign policy of Iran is to be maintained, while Sinkaya said, "Raisi has yet to clearly set forth his vision on foreign policy. And then if anything happens the other way, maybe we can say something".

Speaking to reporters on Friday, Farhad Tajarri, the spokesman for the central committee tasked with monitoring city and village councils elections, described the turnout as "huge".

Should Raisi win, Iran is expected to retreat from the kind of nascent global engagement seen during Rouhani's first term, with a focus on growing its economy internally rather than looking for direct foreign investment. The nuclear deal was essentially a bet by the United States that Iran would change over a decade and lose its appetite to pursue nuclear weapons.

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. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two, presumably Rouhani and Raisi, would face each other a second time in a run-off in a week. Rouhani asked. He also accused Raisi of using Astan-e Quds Razavi for his campaign.

Unemployment remains high - although it fell during Rouhani's first term - and growth is middling. "The numbers are looking better. but the voters aren't feeling it". Iran's presidents set the regional, worldwide and diplomatic tone, but that tone is aimed at serving the objectives of the supreme leader and the IRGC. "If I do not vote today and the results turn out to contradict my will, I may regret it later", Neda Taherkhani, 26, said excitedly as she changed weight from one foot to the other restlessly.

Several candidates have dropped out of the presidential election to be held in Iran on May 19.

Supporters of the two leading candidates honked, blared music and held pictures of the hopefuls out of auto windows on the traffic-clogged and heavily policed streets of Tehran late into the night Thursday, ignoring a ban on campaigning in the final 24 hours before the vote.

However, his supporters will be aware that even if reelected, what Rouhani can achieve may be limited by the authority wielded by Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei, and by institutions such as the Revolutionary Guards.

"We all want to show that we want to have freedom".

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