Iran's hopeful, Agha-Mirsalim, denies drop of presidential bid

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(AP Photo/Vahid Salemi). Supporters of Iranian presidential candidate cleric Ebrahim Raisi hold posters with is image during a street campaign for the May 19 election in downtown Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, May 17, 2017.

Forces from the Police, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and Basij are tasked with ensuring security of the election. Two other hopefuls, Eshaq Jahangiri and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, dropped out of the race in favor of Rouhani and Raisi, respectively.

Seemingly encouraged by the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, hardliners have accused incumbent Hassan Rouhani of wanting to import Western decadence and to open up Iran to the destructive power of US business. All candidates must be vetted by a hardline body. Raisi has appealed to poorer voters by pledging to create millions of jobs.

Ghasemi said Iran would retaliate by adding nine USA individuals and companies to its own sanctions list, accusing them of "clear violations of human rights" in relation to their support for Israel or "terrorist groups" in the Middle East. Khamenei's most obvious reason for installing Raisi as president - other than his preferred isolationist economic policy and rhetorical and diplomatic aggression towards the United States - would be to cement his place as the next Supreme Leader.

He concluded: "If Raisi wins, two things will happen". Executives "expect him to be bolder in terms of tax reform and trade liberalization" in a second term, he said.

On Wednesday, the last day of campaigning that was marked by rallies attended by tens of thousands of supporters of the two main candidates, Khamenei urged voters to head to the polls and send a message to Iran's adversaries.

A high turnout could also boost the chances of Rouhani, who was swept to power in 2013 on promises to reduce Iran's global isolation and grant more freedoms at home. "Fearing pressure by hardliners if they win office, voters have mobilised to vote tomorrow", said Leylaz.

Despite the slump, many voters, particularly wealthier urbanites, are attracted to Rouhani's promise of greater social freedoms.

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Rouhani called on the Iranians to actively participate in the voting process in the upcoming elections, saying that if the people want the problems to be solved, they should take part in the voting.

Political analysts and the scant polling data that's available suggest Rouhani will come out on top among the four candidates left running, though an outright win is by no means assured.

"A Rouhani victory would signal popular support for his policies of economic and political integration as well as moderation", according to Vakil.

Opposition and reformist figures are backing Rouhani, and his recent fiery campaign speeches have led to a surge of public interest.

Yet, as the regime knows all too well, the price of such interference could be another round of protests, reminiscent of those which followed the rigged 2009 vote for then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "Rouhani has failed to bring changes".

US President Donald Trump (who calls the treaty "one of the worst deals ever signed") is not alone in seeing it as a failure. Rouhani's (or, rather the Pragmatists') challenge is that the détente pursued with the West, i.e. conceding on nuclear development in return for partial sanctions relief, has not delivered as much economic benefit as hoped for.

Hillary Clinton, while giving the nuclear deal her tepid approval, was just as negative about Iran in general, and Barack Obama regularly recited the misleading mantra about Iran being the "leading state sponsor of terrorism".

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