Tehran Mayor drops out of Iranian presidential race

Tehran's conservative mayor dropped out of Iran's presidential election on Monday to back a hard-liner believed to be close to the country's supreme leader, consolidating the opposition aiming to unseat moderate President Hassan Rouhani.

Qalibaf had been under pressure from fellow hard-liners to fall in behind Raisi.

In suspending his campaign, the third unsuccessful run he has made at the presidency, Qalibaf released a statement calling the Rouhani camp of moderates and reformists "pseudo-revolutionaries" who are "consuming the roots of the revolution like termites".

"I ask all my supporters in the country to support the success of our great brother Hojatoleslam Seyed Ebrahim Raisi", Qalibaf stated in a letter published in social media.

Qalibaf's allies had argued that he had more recognition in the capital Tehran and among young voters, and offered a more coherent economic plan than some other conservative candidates. On Friday, Rouhani accused his hardline clerical foes of being power-hungry pawns of Iran's security forces.

"It's definitely more hard for Rouhani now", said Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London. "However, I don't think there will be a significant impact as Qalibaf got [just] six million votes in 2013", he said.

Only minutes after the news, posters appeared on conservative media showing the black-turbaned Raisi alongside Qalibaf, wearing a yellow safety helmet.

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He has saved much of his most stinging criticism for Qalibaf, whose withdrawal now means Rouhani's campaign has to adapt for the final few days, said Foad Izadi, a member of the Faculty of World Studies at the University of Tehran who is a critic of the nuclear and Rouhani's foreign policy.

"It was easy to confront Qalibaf because of his debate performance and past experiences, but it's more hard for them to confront Raisi as he's really a newcomer to the political scene", Izadi said.

Ghalibaf called on his supporters to back conservative cleric and jurist Ebrahim Raisi in Friday's vote, saying it was vital for the "preservation of the interests of the people, the revolution and the country".

Iranian cleric and presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi shown at a campaign rally in Tehran, Iran.

Both have promised to create millions of jobs if elected and increase cash handouts to the poorer segments of society.

"Raisi may not have a very strong vote bloc, but as some polls have suggested, his negative vote is smaller than Qalibaf's", said Hossein Rassam, now an independent analyst.

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