Over 20 million Iranians cast votes so far: Interior Ministry

Elizabeth Williams
May 20, 2017

Or, rather, most of those 55 million people will vote and many will not because there is great disillusionment with President Hassan Rouhani who promised to improve the economy, and also with the worldwide treaty on curbing Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions that was supposed to bring back prosperity.

The Islamic Republic's first presidential election since the 2015 nuclear accord drew surprisingly large numbers of voters to polling stations, with some reporting waiting in line for hours to cast their votes.

About 55 million people are eligible to vote in Iran, where the voting age is 18.

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. Of the six candidates approved, two have since dropped out.

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. He is seen by many as close to Khamenei and has even been talked about as a possible successor to him. In regards to Raisi, the Eurasia Group stated that "He lacks charisma and has put forward few concrete ideas on the economy, hurt by his very conservative background in the judiciary and his involvement in executions."An analysis entitled, "Iranian Elections: More than Just the Presidency", penned by Al-Sharq Forum expert Abdullah Yeğin affirmed that "The electoral process will have a wider influence than simply selecting a president".

Millions of Iranians are still queuing up to vote, showing strong turnout in a tight presidential contest, which pits President Rouhani against a serious challenger, Raeisi.

"One wrong decision by the president can mean war and a correct decision can mean peace", he said at his own Mashhad rally.

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.

Iranians overseas also will vote in over 300 locations, including 55 in the US, where more than 1 million Iranians live.

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. But they are anxious to keep out Raisi, who they see as representing the security state at its most fearsome: in the 1980s he was one of four judges who sentenced thousands of political prisoners to death. Mr Raisi has said he will not seek to tear up the nuclear deal. But if he loses the election by a wide margin, that path is less likely, as his backers would struggle to justify his ascension to absolute power when voters didn't even want him to be president. Raisi accused Rouhani of "economic elitism, mismanagement, yielding to Western pressure, and corruption".

He has also hinted at a wider agenda which would advance human rights and curtail the IRGCs military activity, promising to lift the many remaining sanctions on Iran and asking for a convincing mandate to legitimise a push for greater change.

His opponent was the then president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a firebrand hardliner who was looking to secure his second term in office. "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.

For voter Hassan Rahmani, 34, in northern Tehran, maintaining good relations is key to Iran's future. The final decision-maker in Iran's domestic and foreign policy is Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Supporters of the Iranian presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi hold his poster as they wave their country's flags in a campaign rally for the May 19 election at Imam Khomeini grand mosque in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, May 16, 2017.

Supporters of the two leading candidates honked, blared music and held pictures of the hopefuls out of vehicle 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.

"We want freedom of the press", he declared.

Other reports by VgToday

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