Polls Open In First Iran Presidential Vote Since Atomic Deal

Iran's presidential election is effectively a choice between moderate incumbent Rouhani and hardline jurist Ebrahim Raisi

The election is largely viewed as a referendum on the 68-year-old cleric's more moderate policies, which paved the way for the nuclear accord despite opposition from hard-liners.

Iranians overseas also will vote in over 300 locations, including 55 in the U.S., where more than one million Iranians live. His government negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw Iran accept curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling global sanctions.

"For me, Mr Rouhani's dialogue with the world and moderation in society are very important", said Zahra, a 32-year-old PhD student in food science at another Tehran polling station.

Some 300,000 law enforcers are stationed across the country for the process that would finish at 1330 GMT.

Iranian presidents serve four-year terms.

Voting has been extended until 10 p.m. local time (1:30 p.m. ET), Iran's Ministry of Interior said. Results are expected to be announced within 24 hours after polling closes at 6pm. "He kept the shadow of war far from our country". "Anyone who is elected must be helped from tomorrow with unity, happiness and joy".

Last week, Nouri publicly endorsed Rouhani for the election.

That doesn't mean it will be easy, however.

But his main opponent Ebrahim Raisi, 56, has campaigned as a friend of the poor and called for a tougher line with the West.

Raisi is widely seen as Khamenei's preferred candidate - indeed, he is often mentioned as his possible successor.

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Raisi won the support of two major clerical bodies and promised to boost welfare payments to the poor.

However, his candidacy also has revived the controversy surrounding the 1988 mass execution of thousands in Iran, one of the darkest moments of Iran's post-revolution history still not recognized by its government.

Mr. Rouhani made the remarks after he registered his vote for the 12th edition of Iran's presidential election and the 5th edition of City and Village Council.

After voting, Raisi told journalists that all should "completely surrender to the result of the election".

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

Early in his tenure, Rouhani shared a 2013 phone call with then-U.S. President Barack Obama, the highest-level exchange between the two countries since Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution and the U.S. Embassy hostage crisis. No woman has been approved to run for president. Iran's president is subordinate to the supreme leader but still powerful with considerable influence over both domestic policy and foreign affairs.

Under Iran's constitution, the supreme leader has final say on all state matters.

In Iran, where political speech is severely curtailed, newspapers and even social media channels are government regulated and protest comes with great personal risk, the quadrennial presidential election is an opportunity to blow off emotional steam, to act politically in the most public, and loud, of ways.

Rouhani also found himself surrounded by angry coal miners who beat and threw rocks at his armoured SUV during a visit to a northern mine struck by an explosion earlier this month that killed at least 42 people. "At the same time, we must take into account that there are reformers dissatisfied with Rouhani's presidency". Authorities barred Ahmadinejad from running in Friday's election, and Khamenei days ago warned anyone fomenting unrest "will definitely be slapped in the face". Those who led Iran's Green Movement after Ahmadinejad's disputed 2009 re-election remain under house arrest.

He was followed by Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, a reformist, who pulled out to smooth the path for Rouhani.

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