Polls Open as Iran elects a New President - aksu360


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Up to 55 million Iranians will vote today Friday in a Presidential election that pits moderates against religious conservatives and has economic fallout from the American-backed nuclear deal at its heart.

Polls have opened in Iran's presidential election, where Hassan Rouhani is seeking a second term. Mr Rouhani, 68, a moderate cleric who negotiated a landmark nuclear deal with world powers in 2015, is standing against three other candidates.

His main challenger is seen as Ebrahim Raisi, 56, a hardline cleric and former prosecutor who is close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. If no-one wins more than 50% of votes cast, a run-off will be held next week. Every incumbent president has been re-elected in Iran since 1985, when Ayatollah Khamenei himself won a second term.

The interior ministry says that 63,500 polling stations are being used. They are due to close at 18:00 (13:30 GMT - 2.30pm Nigerian time) but in previous elections voting has been extended by several hours because of high turnout.

Iran is far from a complete democracy and the president is not the most powerful person in the country. That job falls to 77-year-old Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an unelected head of state seen as the guardian of the Islamic republic and God's emissary on Earth. And not just anyone can become president. Candidates are being strictly vetted. More than 1,600 people put themselves forward, but Iran's unelected conservative Islamic Guardian Council whittled the list down to just six.

All of those who made the cut are Shiite Muslim men. No woman has ever been chosen. Iran's hybrid system - half theocracy, half democracy - leaves it classed as "authoritarian" and ranked 154th out of 167 countries in a global democracy index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit. "Iranian presidential elections are notable for being unfree, unfair, and unpredictable," Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in a column last week.
female supporter of Iranian presidential candidate Hasan Rowhani flashes a victory sign as she holds his poster

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