Voices of Iranians ahead of presidential election

Incumbent president and frontrunner Hasan Rouhani Reuters  Faisal Mahmood  File

Incumbent president and frontrunner Hasan Rouhani Reuters Faisal Mahmood File

Iran's presidential election became a two-man race Tuesday when the country's incumbent vice president and Tehran's mayor dropped out ahead of Friday's vote.

Because the conservatives are now mostly united behind Raisi, the result is likely to be closer than four years ago, when Rouhani won more than three times as many votes as his closest challenger en route to a victory in a single round. The two campaigned together on Tuesday, appearing at a packed rally in Tehran, where Raisi promised Qalibaf an important role in his administration.

"We will use Qalibaf's experiences and his managerial capabilities in the next government", Tasnim news agency quoted Raisi as saying on Monday.

"Not all of Qalibaf's supporters will move to Raisi, but he does provide some capacity for conservatives to unite", said Suzanne Maloney, an Iran scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

There was no immediate reaction from Rouhani.

Over 56 million Iranians are eligible electorates for the May 19 election. It is reasonable to assume that this deal would not have been completed (and might not have been attempted) under a more hard-line Iranian president. Many residents of Iran's capital vented anger at Qalibaf and Tehran authorities after a massive January fire at a historic high-rise caused the building to collapse, killing 26 people, including 16 firefighters.

Iranian elections are overseen by a clerical body that vets candidates and bars anyone seen as posing a challenge to Iran's unique brand of theocratic rule.

The promise of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution "can only be achieved by changing the status quo", Ghalibaf said.

Es'haq Jahangiri, the Iranian first vice president and a candidate in the country's 12th presidential election, has dropped out of the race to back moderate President Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani, who pledged to reduce Iran's global isolation and grant more freedoms at home, averted a second round by winning just over 50 percent. Raisi has been campaigning on that, proposing cash payments for the poor that proved popular in the past under Ahmadinejad. He was later promoted by Ayatollah Khamenei as the custodian of Astan Quds Razavi, a foundation that manages donations to the country's holiest shrine in the city of Mashhad. In 1988, Raisi was involved in a mass execution of political prisoners that is considered one of the most tragic events in the history of the Islamic Republic.

Vocativ has found that even though the conservative camp in Iran has been very enthusiastic in its embrace of social media, it lags behind the savviness of Rouhani's reformist camp.

Qalibaf had been under pressure from fellow hard-liners to fall in behind Raisi.

"Vote for Rouhani because he is the man for hard situations", he added.

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