Friday, May 19, 2017

Huge turnout as Iranians deliver verdict on Rouhani

 

Tehran. /AFP/ Iranians poured into polling stations on Friday to deliver their verdict on President Hassan Rouhani and his troubled efforts to rebuild ties with the world and kickstart the struggling economy.

There was a festive atmosphere in Tehran where Rouhani, a 68-year-old moderate cleric who spearheaded a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, was mobbed by cheering supporters as he voted in a city centre mosque.

"The enthusiastic participation of Iranians in the election reinforces our national power and security," he said, as polling stations reported morning queues were far longer than usual.

Rouhani, who has framed the vote as a choice between greater civil liberties and "extremism", faces stiff competition from hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, 56, who has positioned himself as a defender of the poor and called for a much tougher line with the West.

"We must all respect the vote of the people," Raisi said as he cast his ballot in southern Tehran.

But his campaign had already started to complain about the conduct of the vote even before polls closed, saying there had been hundreds of "propaganda actions" by Rouhani supporters at voting booths, which are banned under election laws.

Raisi has targeted working-class voters hit by high unemployment and austerity measures, as well as those who worry that the values of the 1979 revolution are under threat.

"His main focus is deprived people and he wants to fight corruption," said Mohsen, a 32-year-old Raisi supporter.

"Our country is surrounded by enemies -- if we don't strengthen our domestic situation, we will be harmed."

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