Iranians go to polls to elect president

May 19, 2017

TEHRAN - Iranians are voting at a presidential election in which four candidates, including incumbent Hassan Rouhani, are competing for the presidential post.

The polls opened at 8:00 local time (03:30 GMT) on Friday. More than 54 million people are eligible to vote the election. Exit polls are expected on Saturday.

The main competition is between Rouhani and Ebrahim Raisi, the current chief of the holy shrine of Imam Reza (AS) and a former national prosecutor general.

The election will go to a runoff if no candidate wins more than 50% of votes cast.

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who cast his vote immediately after the polls opened, said, "Everyone should vote in this important election."

The Interior Ministry said 63,500 polling stations are being used. They elections, which were to close at 18:00 (13:30 GMT),  were extended until 20:00 (15:30 GMT). It is very likely that voting be extended as the turnout seems to be very high.

The Interior Ministry said until 18:00 about 20 million people participated in the elections.

First competition was between six candidates. However, two of them, namely Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf and Es’haq Jahangiri, dropped out of the race on Monday and Tuesday respectively.

Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, withdrew candidacy in favor of Raisi and Jahangiri pulled out in favor of Rouhani, his boss.

The two other candidates who are still in the race are former vice president Mostafa Hashemitaba and former culture minister Mostafa Mirsalim.

In addition, council elections are being held today across the country. In Tehran the competition is between pro-reform candidates campaigning under the slogan of “Hope”, who see themselves in alliance with Rouhani, and the principlists who hold the majority in the sitting council.

Mohsen Hashemi, the son of the late Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, is the main figure of the Hope list. The principlist list is led by Mehdi Chamran, the current chairman of the Tehran City Council.

Any group who wins most seats in the 21-member council can decide who will be the mayor.

Leader calls elections ‘blessing’

The Leader called elections a “blessing” and advised people to participate in the elections.

“We thank God for the blessing of the democratic elections… This is a great blessing. Thank God our people are also grateful for this blessing, as you can see they are taking part,” the Leader noted after casting his vote.

He added, “I believe that the presidential election is extremely important. The destiny of the country is in the hands of the people who choose the head of the executive branch. They should be aware of the significance of this.”

The Leader also described the council elections as important.

“The Islamic city council elections are also of importance, because those who are elected will be in charge of offering civil and village services,” the Leader said, according to Khamenei.ir.

‘Iranians are winner of elections’

Ali Akbar Velayati, the senior foreign policy advisor to the Leader, said the Iranian people are the “winner” of the elections.

After casting his ballot, he called election a factor in protecting “unity” and “power”.

“Undoubtedly, the religious democracy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as an independent country, has helped advance all the objectives of the country and the people’s participation foils enemies’ plots,” noted Velayati, a former foreign minister.

Judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani also said the people will be the “winner regardless of the result of elections”.

He added that massive turnout will foil the enemies’ plots and boost the “national security”.

‘Golden page in religious democracy’

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said mass participation in the elections is “another golden page in (Iranian) religious democracy”.

He added that high turnout in the elections sends the message to the world that the Iranian people should be treated “respectfully”.

‘High turnout guarantees national security’

Incumbent Hassan Rouhani, who is seeking reelection, said high turnout guarantees the country’s “power” and “national security”.

People’s participation will pave the way for “progress”, he added after voting.

Rouhani said that the people’s vote determines both their destiny and the country’s future.

Presidential contender Ebrahim Raisi expressed satisfaction over the way the election was handled, saying it is “assuring”.

Participation in elections “is an honor” and through their votes the people shape the course of developments, noted Raisi, the main challenger to Rouhani.

Ahmad Jannati, chairman of the Assembly of Experts and the oversight Guardian Council, also praised the process of the elections.

After casting his vote, Jannati said the people have always responded positively to the Leader’s call for participation in the elections.

Presidential Chief of Staff Mohammad Nahavandian, praising people’s participation in the election, also said Iran’s security is “exemplary” and “we should help improve regional security through active diplomacy”.

Majlis Speaker Ali Larijnai said large turnout will help strengthen “regional security”.

‘Great epic’

First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri described the massive participation in the election as a “great epic”.

Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan said “religious democracy” in Iran is an “undeniable fact”.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said participation in the election bears the message that security can be achieved by “reliance on the people”.

Mohsen Rezaee, the secretary of the Expediency Council, said the people are the “main decision makers” in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

NA/PA

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