TEHRAN – Polls for presidential elections opened in Iran on Friday with voters set to select between giving second chance to Hassan Rouhani or electing a new head.
The elections, first after Iran signed the atomic deal, hanging in balance for a protracted period of time is between four candidates with Rouhani seeking a second term.
A cut-throat competition is expected between Rouhani and 56-year-old hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who has positioned himself as a defender of the poor and calls for a much tougher line with the West.
The other two candidates include Mostafa Hashemitaba, who served as minister of industry in the 1980s. At the eleventh hour, he asked voters to go for Rouhani instead of him.
Former Culture Minister Mostafa Mirsalim is also among the candidates and refuted reports that he stepped aside in support of Raisi.
Two other candidates Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf and Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri were also in the presidential race but both pulled out supporting Mr Raisiand Mr Rouhani respectively.
No woman is among the final list of candidates trying luck for leading the Muslim Asian country though Azam Taleghani, a member of the Society of Islamic Revolution Women of Iran filed her papers which were rejected during the vetting procedure by the Guardian Council, an influential clerical body controlled by conservatives.
Some 300,000 law enforcers are stationed across the country for the process that would finish at 1330 GMT. The interior ministry says that 63,500 polling stations are being used.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cast his ballot just minutes after polls opened at 8:00 am (0330 GMT).
“The destiny of the country is in the hand of Iranians,” he told reporters as he voted in Tehran.
Earlier, on the final day of campaigning on Wednesday, Khamenei called for a massive turnout to demonstrate the popularity of the Islamic regime
“American, European officials and those of the Zionist regime are watching our elections to see the level of participation,” he said.