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Tehran mayor quits poll race, asks supporters to back Raisi

Tehran mayor quits poll race, asks supporters to back Raisi

Tehran Mayor Mohamad Baqer Qalibaf on Monday announced his withdrawal from the upcoming Iranian presidential election while expressing his support to conservative candidate, cleric Ebrahim Raisi.

State television said Monday, May 15, 2017 that Qalibaf dropped out of the election and is now backing the candidacy of hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi, believed to be a favorite of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

"The move comes with a view to preserving the revolution's front and its values", he added.

Raisi is challenging Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in this Friday's presidential election.

"Iran's political right has been scrambling to field a single candidate that could push back against" Rouhani's coalition of technocrats, pragmatists and reformers, Taleblu said.

Rouhani, a pragmatist who has eased Iran's global isolation and now faces mostly hardline conservative challengers for the presidency, told supporters he needed a stronger mandate to liberalise Iranian society and get opposition leaders freed. The 5th municipal elections and the midterm elections for the 10th Islamic Consultative Assembly (Iran's Legislature) will also be held simultaneously.

The same day that Mr Trump heads overseas, Iran is holding its first presidential election since the completion of the nuclear agreement.

Rouhani's allies say his rivals oppose deeper change and exposure to worldwide competition in part because of the economic interests of the Guards, which gained control of swathes of Iran's industry during its years of isolation.

Qalibaf's allies had argued that he had more recognition in the capital Tehran and among young voters, and offered a more coherent economic plan than some other conservative candidates. In exchange for the International Atomic Energy Agency having more control over Iran's nuclear programme, Iran would keep a presence in the region, there would be a guarantee of security of the regime, and the USA would lift sanctions against it.

"Poverty has increased with this government from 23 percent to 33 percent", said Raisi, a cleric and jurist, who is seen as the leading conservative, though still a distant second to Rouhani in unofficial polls.

He struck a deal with world powers in 2015 that lifted most worldwide sanctions on Iran, reconnecting it with the global financial system and opening new avenues for foreign investment, in return for curbs to Iran's disputed nuclear programme.

Conservatives accuse Rouhani of succumbing to Western pressure and for compromising Iran's sovereignty.

Hardliners, who are seeking a comeback to power, are pulling out all the stops to prevent Rouhani being re-elected. Of course Rouhani was referring to Raisi who was appointed by Khomeini as a member of the "Death Commission" in the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners. It also suggests that Iran's election will be decided in the first round, which requires the victor to get over 50 percent of the total vote. Qalibaf's dropping out may serve to get him more votes in his challenge to Rouhani.

Influential reformist activist Mostafa Tajzadeh, who spent years in prison after opposing Ahmadinejad's contested 2009 re-election, worries promises of cash will sway the poor and unemployed.

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