Polls open in first Iran presidential vote since atomic deal

On Tuesday, Iran's reformist vice president Eshaq Jahangiri announced his withdrawal from the race in order to back incumbent Rouhani, urging all his supporters to vote for the incumbent. U.S. President Donald Trump's tougher stance on Iran has stoked concern as well, though his administration this week took a key step toward preserving the Obama-era nuclear deal.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cast his vote at his compound in Tehran just minutes after polls opened, saying: "The destiny of the country is in the hands of Iranians". Of the six candidates approved, two have since dropped out.

The Guards hope that a win for Raisi will give them an opportunity to claw back economic and political power lost in Shia 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. In campaign stops and debates, he's struck an increasingly more-forceful line against the Revolutionary Guard and hard-liners for ballistic missile launches and arbitrary arrests, something he largely avoided doing so far in his time in office.

"For Russia, strictly speaking, it doesn't matter who will win because the political field [in Iran's elections] is represented by different gradations of conservative forces; they all know full well that under the current state of affairs, Iran has no alternative but to continue in maintaining a sustainable dialogue with Russia", he concluded.

A lot of the US coverage leading up to today's Iranian presidential election has compared it to recent political dynamics in the United States and Europe.

Running for the presidency are incumbent Hassan Rouhani, hardline cleric and former Attorney-General Ebrahim Raisi, former Vice-President Mostafa Hashemitaba and conservative candidate Mostafa Mir-Salim.

"Rouhani has turned our foreign policies into a mess and damaged our religion", said Sedigheh Davoodabadi, a 59-year-old housewife in Iran's holy city of Qom who voted for Raisi.

Rouhani, 68, is a moderate cleric elected in 2013 on pledges of greater personal freedoms and improved relations with the West. Raisi has said he won't seek to tear up the nuclear deal.

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Raisi has tried to gain support by promising more financial support to the working class and to triple cash handouts to the poor. 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.

Surprisingly, Islam. "Candidates have seemingly concluded that Islamic ideology has lost its power as a driving factor among voters and is therefore not worth addressing", wrote Mehdi Khalaji, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who is Shiite theologian by training. A voter must show their national ID card and fill out a form.

Over 60,000 ballot boxes have been prepared nationwide to receive votes.

Voting has been extended until 8 p.m. local time (11:30a.m. ET), Iran's Ministry of Interior said.

The conservative-dominated Guardian Council must validate the results of election. Iran bars domestic and global observers from the elections, bucking a widely accepted principle around the world that worldwide watchdogs warn can allow for fraud. Allegations of voter fraud marred the country's 2009 election, which saw hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad secure a second term amid widespread unrest.

Iran describes itself as an Islamic Republic.

But in an apparent reference to the 2009 disturbances, Khamenei, an unelected clerical hardliner who has the ultimate say in Iran, has previously warned he would confront anyone trying to interfere in the election.

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