Polling extended as Iranians deliver verdict on Rouhani

Tehran (AFP) – Iran’s polls finally closed after Friday’s election was extended to cope with the large numbers turning out to give their verdict on President Hassan Rouhani and his troubled efforts to rebuild international ties and kickstart the struggling economy.

Rouhani, a 68-year-old moderate cleric who spearheaded a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, has framed the vote as a choice between greater civil liberties and “extremism”.

But he has faced stiff competition from hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, 56, who positioned himself as a defender of the poor and called for a much tougher line with the West.

The interior ministry extended the vote to midnight as it became clear thousands were still waiting in line when the initial closing time arrived four hours earlier.

“The enthusiastic participation of Iranians in the election reinforces our national power and security,” said Rouhani as he cast his vote in Tehran.

State media said more than 30 million — over half of registered voters — had already cast their ballot when the initial deadline was reached.

“The enthusiastic participation of Iranians in the election reinforces our national power and security,” said Rouhani as he voted in Tehran.

But Raisi’s campaign had already lodged complaints before polls even closed, saying there had been hundreds of “propaganda actions” by Rouhani supporters at voting booths, which are banned under election laws.

Raisi has targeted working-class voters hit by high unemployment and austerity measures, as well as those who worry that the values of the 1979 revolution are under threat.

“His main focus is deprived people and he wants to fight corruption,” said Mohsen, a 32-year-old Raisi supporter.

“Our country is surrounded by enemies — if we don’t strengthen our domestic situation, we will be harmed.”

– US threat –

Rouhani’s central achievement was a deal with six powers led by the United States that eased crippling economic sanctions in exchange for curbs to Iran’s nuclear programme –…

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