A look at Iran's presidential candidates

According to some reports, Raisi, who might replace Khamanei as the next supreme leader, entered the presidential race to enhance his chances for later winning the seat of the number one man in the regime.

"The destiny of the country is in the hand of Iranians", he told reporters as he voted in his compound in Tehran. Yet, it is routinely treated by USA administrations of both parties as a rogue state that poses a huge and unique threat to the peace of the Middle East. Opinion polls are mostly conducted through the internet and phone, so they cover only certain part of the population.

On Friday, Raisi, Rouhani and Khamenei all cast ballots as the voting began nationwide, and the supreme leader urged Iranians to head to the polls.

He has been here before.

Nearby, a woman scolded another voter in line for wearing purple, which was Rouhani's campaign colour. This time he's using the same playbook in the face of a growing conservative challenge.

Iran's complex theocratic and republican governing structure since 2015, when Iran struck a nuclear deal with world powers that brought it out of worldwide isolation.

Trump had until Thursday to extend a sanctions waiver on Iran.

Mr Rouhani has appealed to voters to prevent the leadership going to a hardliner, saying: "One wrong decision by the president can mean war and a correct decision can mean peace". While assuming that nearly all of them will support conservative Raisi, it will not be so easy for Rouhani to win in the first round of the election as it has been expected.

Although Khamenei, 77, is guarded about his political preferences, he appears to back Raisi both as a presidential candidate and possible successor. Before Rouhani took office, 15.5% of the country was unemployed. Up to a point it has worked.

REZA SAYAH: But Iran's economy is still struggling.

The above arrangement hence facilitated export of oil to Europe.

Although Rouhani has an incumbent's advantage, his promised economic revival is seen by many as having fallen short of his stated goals, and he has been the target of unceasing and strong allegations of corruption. Many can't afford to get married or buy a home. Other conservative critics say Rouhani has looked after the interests of the ashraf, or elite, at the expense of the mostazafin, the oppressed.

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Rouhani has steadied the Iranian economy and brought down inflation but unemployment is high and his opponents have questioned whether his administration has done enough to bring noticeable economic benefits. Those who led Iran's Green Movement after Ahmadinejad's disputed 2009 re-election remain under house arrest. Raisi is more popular there.

"Rouhani did a lot of work that I praise him for, but we can not rely on foreigners".

Iran is no worse than many of America's allies in the region (and better than some) in its treatment of its own citizens. But Alireza Nader at the RAND Corporation thinks that although Rouhani's campaign rhetoric is created to make him sound tough and determined, his ability and desire to translate words into deeds will be limited should he be re-elected.

Mirsalim, 69, was shot and wounded during the unrest leading up to the 1979 revolution.

Many pro-reform voters are still lukewarm Rouhani supporters, disappointed with the slow pace of change during his first term. "What I promised in 2013, either I did or wasn't allowed to do".

"If Rouhani wins he is going to be interested in improving political relations", says Foad Izadi, professor at the University of Tehran.

But don't expect open confrontation.

Rouhani was instrumental in empowering and emboldening the IRGC and Khamenei. He is not in favor of the nuclear accord signed in July 2015. But his support has never been more than tepid. "This is not correct". "Now, we (still) don't have freedom and don't have jobs". But he remains subordinate to the supreme leader, who is chosen by a clerical panel and has the ultimate say over all matters of state. That pretty much rules out any rapprochement with the United States.

The truth is more complex: Elections in Iran are hugely significant in shaping Tehran's foreign and domestic policy. If we keep fighting and beating ourselves up, nothing will ever get done.

He has spent a lot of time working on alternatives to western investment, such as a closer relationship with Russian Federation. The deal lifted worldwide sanctions, giving Iran access to global markets. But his room for maneuver will remain limited.

A close ally and former pupil of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he is seen as the preferred choice of the powerful security establishment, advocating a more self-sufficient "resistance economy" rather than a reliance on foreigners. Analysts have suggested a high turnout will aid Rouhani in securing a second four-year term.

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