Domingo, 25 Junio, 2017

Polls open in first Iran presidential vote since atomic deal

Iranians determine future of reforms in presidential election Iran Presidential Vote Pits 'Engagement' Against 'Self-Reliance'
Eleena Tovar | 19 May, 2017, 18:59

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

An independent poll showed Rohani almost 20 points ahead of Raisi on the eve of the vote, although polling is notoriously unreliable in Iran and many voters reportedly remained undecided.

Raisi hopes to follow in the footsteps of Khamenei, who served two terms as Iran's president before becoming supreme leader.

"This is a polarised election - a race between powerful unelected centres of power and the rest of the country", said analyst Hamid Farahvashian.

Polls close at 6 p.m. (8.30 a.m. ET), although authorities often extend voting into the evening.

After the nomination of Trump this year, then the French presidential elections a few weeks ago it is now the turn of the Iranians to elect their president on May 19 to decide the future of their world.

Some 56 million Iranians are eligible for voting, and will choose the next president for a four-year term from among the four candidates.

Four candidates out of six have reached the final stage of the race: two key candidates - moderate liberal and current president, Hassan Rouhani, and conservative, Grand Imam of Imam Reza shrine, Ebrahim Raisi, as well as Mostafa Hashemitaba and Mostafa Mir-Salim.Senior researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, candidate of historical sciences, Yelena Dunaeva, discussed final balance of powers and chances of each candidate in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.

The worldwide community will be paying close attention to the Islamic Republic's elections, whose results will surely reverberate throughout the Middle Eastern region and Muslim world. "It might cause protests similar to those in 2009, as different walks of the society, desiring evolution inside the establishment, have united against Raisi".

Although Khamenei, 77, is guarded about his political preferences, he appears to back Raisi both as a presidential candidate and possible successor.

"If I, for instance, find the result undesirable, it should not lead to disruption of the election", he said.

His government negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw Iran accept curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling worldwide sanctions.

But critics of the deal say the economic benefits have yet to reach ordinary Iranians.

Born into a religious family in 1948 and rising to the middle ranks within the Shi'ite clergy, Rouhani was active in the revolution that overthrew the USA -backed Shah in 1979.

The other main issue, and perhaps the most dominant during campaigning, is the economy.

Raisi has promised to triple cash handouts to the poor, hoping to pick up voters that once supported Ahmadinejad.

Rouhani's chief opponent is the conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi.

On Wednesday, Rouhani gained what is seen as a reprieve when the Trump administration agreed to continue waiving nuclear-related sanctions, keeping the agreement on track for now.

Rouhani, meanwhile, is essentially running for reelection as an outsider, and is being backed by Iran's reformist camp. President Rouhani has succeeded in bringing Iran out of the isolation that it was under conservative President Ahmadinejad. And to ensure that the final results of the election look as if they have been exclusively determined by the people's ballot.

Iranian voters queue at a polling station for the presidential and municipal council election in Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 19, 2017.

The vote may not have a decisive influence on foreign policy, which is set by Khamenei, the election of a hardliner could harm Iran's global image and further deter foreign trade and investment seen as vital to rebuilding the economy.

For younger, particularly urban Iranians, many of whom want more democracy and social freedoms nearly 40 years after the Islamic Revolution, Rouhani is the sole choice, even if it is one they're likely to make without real enthusiasm.

As much as Iranians, for political and economic reasons, the world population from Tokyo to Washington DC is waiting with baited breath for the result. It banned more than 1,600 hopefuls including all 137 women.