Rouhani leads in Iran’s Presidential election

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Tehran, May 20 (IANS) Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is running for a second term, has a clear lead over his main rival, conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi, as counting for the Presidential election is underway, according to preliminary results announced on Saturday.

The country’s Election Commission said Rouhani had obtained over 14.6 million votes, or approximately 56 per cent of the nearly 26 million counted so far, suggesting he is on track for victory, Efe news reported.

Meanwhile, around 10.1 million, or 39 per cent of ballots, were cast in favour of Raisi, while former ministers Mostafa Mirsalim and Mostafa Hashemi Taba had 280,000 and 140,000 votes, respectively.

At a press conference, poll body chief Ali Asghar Ahmadi stressed that the results are preliminary, with final figures due to be announced on Saturday evening.

More than 40 million people, out of the 56 million eligible to vote, cast their ballots in the Iranian presidential election on Friday, according to Ahmadi, who praised the high turnout, and safe and upbeat atmosphere that prevailed during the polls.

Voting was held in 63,500 polling stations across the country, and was extended by five hours due to “requests” and the “enthusiastic participation of people”.

The presidential race was touted as a battle between Rouhani and Raisi, and also as a test of the popularity of the reigning leader’s moderate agenda.

If no-one wins more than 50 per cent of votes cast, a run-off will be held next week.

Every incumbent President has been re-elected in Iran since 1985, when Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself won a second term, reports the BBC.

Six candidates were approved by the Guardian Council, an influential clerical body controlled by conservatives, but two of them dropped out earlier this week, the BBC reported.

The first was Tehran’s hard-line mayor, Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf, who pledged his support for Raisi on Monday.

He was followed on Tuesday by Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, a reformist, who pulled out to smooth the path for Rouhani.

–IANS

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