Iranians start voting for next president

Many Iranians in Canada are eager for increased engagement between Ottawa and Tehran

The Tudeh Party of Iran's assessment is that with each stage-managed election the theocratic regime's avenues of recourse, with regard to its growing internal and external crises, are becoming more limited and its inherent contradictions more pronounced - with the Iranian people no longer able to be placated through a process of choosing between different types of president all ultimately subservient to a reviled dictatorship.

The incumbent, relative moderate Hassan Rohani, and a conservative former prosecutor, Ebrahim Raisi, are widely regarded as the presidential front-runners in the clerically dominated Islamic country of around 81 million people, which is laboring under high unemployment and struggling to seize economic opportunities overseas. Rouhani's main challenger is the influential hardline politician Ebrahim Raisi, who has been touted as a frontrunner to succeed Supreme Leader Khamenei.

Often mentioned as a possible successor to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as Supreme Leader, Raisi appears to have the backing of the clerical establishment.

Raisi, who is seen to be very close to Khamenei, had previously attacked Rouhani for failing to deliver promised improvements to the economy. The choice of voters is also going to have a bearing on what sort of foreign policy is expected out of Tehran. "Raisi speaks for Iran, for Muslims".

"Why have you increased the gap between the poor and rich so much with your misguided policies?"

Donald Trump as a candidate vowed to renegotiate or tear up the nuclear deal. He accused Rohani of overreliance on foreign investment to fix economic problems.

Ballot counting will start at midnight and final results are expected within 24 hours of polls closing, the semi-official Fars news agency said.

As Iran prepares to vote in its twelfth presidential election, Hassan Rouhani, the current incumbent, is facing decisive opposition to his reelection bid.

Whoever wins Friday's vote could help shape the choice of the next supreme leader, and in turn the direction of the country.

More than 54 million people are eligible to vote in Friday's election.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump on Wednesday extended wide sanctions relief for Iran called for under a 2015 worldwide nuclear deal even as he imposed narrow penalties on Iranian and Chinese figures for supporting Iran's ballistic missile program, reported AFP.

Oil sales have rebounded since the nuclear deal took effect in January previous year, but growth in the rest of the economy has been limited, leaving unemployment at 12.5 percent overall, and nearly 30 percent for young people. Polling suggests that there very well may be a victor tonight.

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Raisi has tapped into that frustration to attack Rohani for failing to translate the deal into better living standards for average Iranians. 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.

"The US administration, right now, doesn't even want to negotiate with Iran".

Raisi has countered by saying Rohani tries to cover up his failures by creating fear among Iranians.

At a nearby mosque, where men and women lined up in separate queues, there were many more Raisi supporters. "And then if anything happens the other way, maybe we can say something".

This year's presidential race also features two low-key contenders - former deputy judiciary chief and member of Iran's Expediency Council Mostafa Aqa-Mirsalim and former vice president, Mostafa Hashemi-Taba. He has promised to generate one million jobs per year.

However, Rouhani has history on his side: no sitting President has failed to win a second term since 1981.

Raisi is believed to enjoy broad support within the hard-line Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) military organization. "I hope we are not forced to leave the country", he said.

Here's everything you need to know about the vote.

- Ghalibaf asks his supporters to support Raisi, because he also represents conservative block.

In times like this, now the biggest question will be if the voters do not vote, and those who do are influenced by the promises of money, will Iran stand as a democracy?

Iran's presidential elections are based on a well-orchestrated mechanism in which a few of the pre-selected candidates, who have the blessing of Khamenei and the IRGC, are permitted by the Guardian Council to run.

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