Conservative drops out of Iran election to back hard-liner

Iran preparing for peaceful election in insecure region

"With a wall of sanctions, they created distance between "half of the world" and the world", Rouhani said at a May 14 campaign rally in the historic city of Esfahan, once the capital of the Safavid Empire and in a proverb referred to as "half of the world". Fasten your seat belts.

Five candidates, including incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, are running in the race.

And just in case their favorite doesn't garner the most votes, they're not beyond simply ignoring the actual results - which is what they did in 2009, prompting Iranians to pour into streets in protest during Iran's unsuccessful "Green Revolution".

Rouhani won a commanding victory, taking more than 50 percent of the vote in the June 14 election.

The Supreme Leader appears to be in a dilemma - whether to promote his protégé Raisi, who is his potential successor or moderate Rouhani.

So far in public Khamenei has called only for a high turnout, saying Iran's enemies have sought to use the elections to "infiltrate" its power structure, and a high turnout would prove the system's legitimacy. He could also use some governing experience, which he now lacks.

Born in Esfahan, Iran, Montazeri was one of the founding fathers of the Islamic Republic, a human rights activist, Islamic theologian and the designated successor to the Islamic revolution's Supreme Leader Khomeini, until the very last moments of Khomeini's life.

Tehran mayor Muhammad Bagher Ghalibaf on Monday withdrew from this week's presidential election in favor of conservative candidate Ibrahim Reisi. He now wants Rouhani to be removed from office and replaced by the ultra hard-line executioner Raisi, a senior cleric who wears the black turban, signifying his direct descendancy from the Prophet Mohammad.

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The immediate result of the rising tension now between the USA and Iran is that it undermines Iranian moderates, including Rouhani's government, which put all their political capital in the deal in the lead up to this month's election. The mullahs wanted to signal to the victor that his mandate was limited.

In recent weeks, Rouhani, a 68-year-old moderate cleric, has lashed out at the conservatives over issues from freedom of speech to corruption and wealthy institutions that don't pay tax. The Iranians know that if they have to return to a time of sanctions, it will be detrimental to their economy.

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The withdrawal of Mr Rouhani's ally, Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, from Friday's poll had been expected.

The presidential election is a stepping stone and significant platform being utilized by the gilded circle of power to significantly promote some favored individuals, who are loyal to the IRGC and Khamenei.

Rouhani's pledge to restart global dialogue regarding Iran's nuclear activities was fulfilled in early November 2013 with the opening of talks between Iran and a group comprising the United States, China, Russia, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

Rouhani has other points against him, too: corruption, inefficient governance, the still-ailing economy.

"Raisi has a good chance to win".



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