TEHRAN, May 19, YJC - Iran is holding its 12th presidential elections on Friday. There are four candidates racing to become the country’s eighth president.
TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) - Two of them are known as reformists and two others as principlists. The strongest candidates are incumbent President Hassan Rouhani and Ebrahim Raisi.
Iranians headed to the polls as soon as the stations opened on Friday morning. More than 56,400,000 eligible voters can cast their ballots in 63,429 polling stations across Iran.
There are four candidates seeking presidency in the polls, including incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, Ebrahim Raisi, Mostafa Hashemitaba, and Mostafa Aqa-Mirsalim. Two other hopefuls, Eshaq Jahangiri and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, dropped out of the race in favor of Rouhani and Raisi, respectively.
The candidates have been singled out by the Guardian Council from among more than 1,600 applicants seeking the presidency.
The Guardian Council is responsible for vetting all nominees for the presidential election and allowing only those that it sees as acceptable to run.
Incumbent President Hassan Rouhani emerged victorious in the previous polls in June 2013 by winning 50.7 percent of a total of over 36 million votes.
Rouhani, a reformist, is a Muslim cleric and a lawyer with strong religious and revolutionary credentials. Before the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, President Rouhani used to preach against the Shah (the toppled king of Iran), and had to change his name to avoid detection by the secret services. He joined the parliament after the revolution and held major posts such as head of the Supreme National Security Council.
After taking the office in 2013, President Rouhani managed to conclude nuclear negotiations with the Group 5+1 (Russia, China, the US, Britain, France and Germany) which resulted in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a 159-page agreement that put certain restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in return for a lifting of the sanctions and the unfreezing of billions of dollars in Iranian assets.
Rouhani’s main challenger in the election is Ebrahim Raisi, a principlist figure. Raisi is the chief custodian of the holy shrine of Imam Reza (AS) in the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad, a role assigned by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei.
Raisi, also a Muslim cleric and a top judge, was younger than Rouhani at the outset of the Islamic Revolution. He rose quickly through the ranks and used to work as Iran's prosecutor general before going to Mashhad for his new post.
Up until Monday, there were two other strong candidates in the race, reformist First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri and principlist Mayor of Tehran Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.
The two candidates had strong showings during the nationally televised debates and on the campaign trails, but both dropped out of the race.
Jahangiri has thrown his weight behind President Rouhani and has asked all his supporters to vote for the incumbent president, while Qalibaf has announced his support for Raisi.
The two remaining candidates are believed to have very slim chance of winning.
Mostafa Hashemitaba, 70, is a former minister of industry and former head of the country's top Sport organization. Known as a reformist figure, Hashemitaba also used to serve as head of Iran’s National Olympic Committee. He had once entered the presidential race in 2001, in which Mohammad Khatami was elected president.
During televised debates over the past weeks, Hashemitaba defended the record of President Rouhani’s administration and lashed out at the principlist candidates for their unrealistic pledges. Hashemitaba has announced that he himself would vote for Rouhani on Friday.
The last candidate is Mostafa Aqa-Mirsalim, a principlist and a former minister of culture. The 70-year-old candidate is a French-educated engineer and member of the Islamic Coalition Party. Appearing as a critic of President Rouhani in the debates, Mirsalim has focused his campaign pledge on rooting out corruption.
A run-off would be held next Friday if none of the candidates wins a majority, which is at least 50 percent plus one vote.
Interior Ministry officials have underlined that any comment on the election results or release of figures showing results of opinion polls in any shape is forbidden and inauthentic, saying the Interior Ministry is the only official source for announcing the results.
The ministry has also declared the prohibition of prediction of results by any candidate and claiming victory or calling for celebrating election victory before the official release of the vote counts.
The vote counts are going to be made public in a gradual process upon closure of the polls tonight.