Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

A look at Iran's presidential candidates

Iran President Hassan Rouhani said of the deal "Negotiators have reached a good agreement and I announce to our people that our prayers have come true".

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

Rouhani, a cleric, says his moderate administration needs to continue its work to implement the nuclear deal.

TEHRAN, Iran- Polls opened at 8 a.m. local time across Iran in the first round of a high-stake presidential election that is being closely watched by the worldwide community.

Raisi, 56, is a hard-line cleric close to Khamenei who has vowed to combat poverty and corruption.

"The enthusiastic participation of Iranians in the election reinforces our national power and security", said Rouhani after casting his vote. Iran's Guardian Council, a 12-member panel half selected by the supreme leader and half nominated by the judiciary and approved by parliament, vetted the candidates and narrowed the field to six, including Rouhani.

Senior researcher at the Center of Middle East Studies of the Oriental Studies Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vladimir Sazhin, believes that Iran's policy has a very strong influence on the situation in the region and that the result of elections is extremely important. "The country's fate is determined by the people", he added.

Raisi is widely seen as Khamenei's preferred candidate - indeed, he is often mentioned as his possible successor.

Rouhani remains the favorite of analysts as every Iranian president since Khamenei himself took the presidency in 1981 has won re-election.

Reform-minded supporters recognize that Rouhani isn't flawless - he too, after all, is also a cleric.

Voter Mahya Kamalvan, 26, told CNN: "We can not complain if someone else is chosen". "The fact is that Raisi is not a very well-known person in Iran, so I think that Rouhani will win", she said.

Iranian voters enter a polling station to vote for the presidential and municipal councils election in Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 19, 2017.

"I am young, and I want to live in a more free country".

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"I am on my way to vote for Rouhani".

"It's the reason why I have [waited] about one hour in this line, in this hot weather". Inflation in Iran skyrocketed to 40 percent during the term of Ahmadinejad, while it dropped to 7.5 percent under Rouhani.

In 1985, in the midst of the Iran-Iraq war, he became deputy prosecutor at the Revolutionary Court of Tehran that would oversee the execution of thousands of political prisoners.

But Rouhani won't necessarily benefit.

In a tight contest, a traditionally high turnout among conservatives could be enough to give Raisi victory.

However, Rouhani has history on his side: no sitting President has failed to win a second term since 1981. Officially, the vote will last until 6 p.m. local time but may be extended by a decision of Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli.

The president has had a tough time defending the 2015 nuclear deal and his opponents have accused him of not making good on his promises. Since the deal went into effect, Iran has doubled its oil exports and inked multi-billion-dollar aircraft deals with Boeing and Airbus. For the average Iranian, the results have been lackluster, and Raisi has jumped upon this accusing Rouhani of sacrificing Iran's sovereignty for a fool's bargain.

Nasser Hadian, a professor at the University of Tehran, said the election was about more than just the economy.

"All the growth in this country is dependent on relations with the other countries - European countries, United States, all the countries", he told CNN.

Ershan Nasroudi, 35, voiced a similar view.

But for others, Rouhani is the best candidate to tackle the country's key issues.

The race has heated emotions and pushed public discourse in Iran into areas typically untouched in the tightly controlled state media.

Before voting had even concluded in Iran's presidential election today, the head of the opposition campaign complained of multiple "infractions" and called for an intervention by authorities.

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