Reuters has reported that on Friday Iranians began voting in fiercely-contested presidential polls, standing in long lines to choose between Hassan Rouhani, the incumbent who wants normal ties with the West, and a populist challenger backed by powerful security hawks.
“Everyone should vote in this important election … The country’s fate is determined by the people,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said, casting his ballot in Tehran as lengthy queues formed across the country of 80 million.
In a warning reflecting rising political tensions amid signs of an unexpectedly close race, Rouhani has urged Iran’s powerful elite Revolutionary Guards, believed to support his conservative opponent Ebrahim Raisi, not to meddle in the vote.
Suspicions that the Guards and the Basij militia under their control falsified voting results in favor of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad led to eight months of nationwide protests in 2009. Dozens of people were killed and hundreds arrested, human rights groups say, in the worst unrest to hit the Islamic Republic.
“I am on my way to vote for Rouhani. I like his detente policy with the world. I know he is not a reformist but who cares. What matters is that he is not Raisi,” government employee Yousef Ghaemi, 43, said by phone in the western city of Kermanshah.
“I cast my vote already – I voted for Raisi because he is a follower of Imam Khamenei. He will not confront the leader (Khamenei) if elected. He will protect our Islamic identity,” said Mehran Fardoust,36, a shop keeper near the Imam Reza Shrine, in the holy city of Mashhad, Raisi’s home town.
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