TEHRAN: Iranians were voting for a new president on Friday in an election reformists hope their sole candidate will win in the face of divided conservative ranks, four years after the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Dozens of men and women, in separate queues, were seen outside polling stations as they opened at 8 a.m. (3:30 Manila time). Voting continues until 6 p.m. but if there is a big turnout the interior ministry can issue an extension until midnight.
More than 50.5 million people are eligible to vote for the man—no women candidates were approved—to succeed Ahmadinejad, who is barred from standing for a third consecutive
term under the constitution.
At the same time as choosing a new president from six candidates, voters will also pick municipal councilors.
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has called for a large turnout but not publicly stated his preference for any single candidate, voted early.
“Inshallah [God willing], the Iranian people will create a new political epic. I advise all people to vote and do so in the early hours of the morning,” said the Iranian leader after casting his ballot.
If no candidate secures 50.1 percent, or more of the votes to win outright on Friday, a second round will be held a week later.
The first results are expected today.
With the conservative camp divided, reformists seem confident of a good showing by moderate cleric Hassan Rowhani, who has emerged as a frontrunner with a real chance of forcing a run-off, analysts say.
A pack of three heads the conservatives: former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, Qalibaf and the Islamic republic’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili.
Both sides, reformist and conservative, have appealed for the electorate to turn out in high numbers—the first hoping for change and the other to show the power of a regime accused of seeking to ensure victory for a Khamenei loyalist.
Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who was disqualified from running, urged a large turnout, which analysts say will increase the chances Rowhani putting up a credible fight against the conservatives.
“We hope the election result will lead to national cohesion . . . since cohesion is a requirement for success against foreign and domestic dangers,” said Rafsanjani, who has thrown his weight behind Rowhani.