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May 19, 2017: Presidential vote a face-off between reformist incumbent and hardliners

IRAN - President Hassan Rouhani has been cleared by the Guardian Council to run for a second term, and hardline former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been barred. National disappointment stands as Rouhani’s main handicap in the now six-man race.

Iran’s political system allows elections for president and parliament, but gives the clerical council the power to veto laws and decide which candidates may stand: the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei outranks the elected president. The Council announced the approved list on Apr 21.

In 2013, promising to end the country’s diplomatic isolation, Rouhani, a reformist, was elected in a landslide. He struck a deal with world powers in 2015 on curbing Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for relief from sanctions and has sought to open Iran’s economy to foreign investors. The deal has delivered some relief from a crippling recession, but banking sanctions led by the United States limit the extent of the benefits. Low prices for oil exports and lagging foreign investment compound the country’s economic woes.

The BBC observes that with joblessness now at 12.5 per cent, and young people especially hard hit, this is likely to be a key election issue for Rouhani, whose support base includes many of the younger generation.

His key challengers are conservatives, cleric Ebrahim Raisi and Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, Mayor of Tehran. Raisi has close personal ties to the leadership and is said to be the favourite of powerful hardline conservatives. Bagher Ghalibaf, a pilot and former commander of the Revolutionary Guards air force, is ranked behind the cleric as the chief Rouhani rival. The Tehran mayor is better known than the cleric, however, a potential advantage on voting day.


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