USA refusal to lift sanctions erodes Rouhani's bid for second term

USA refusal to lift sanctions erodes Rouhani's bid for second term

The coalition between the two conservative nominees will benefit the country's economy in a post-election era, if Raeisi manages to assume power through the election.

Conservative Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf withdrew from Iran's presidential race on Monday just days before the election, state media reported.

This is because Raisi is one of the four Sharia judges who oversaw the executions of tens of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, and many have attacked Rouhani saying he "has been directly involved in all of Iran regime's crimes" and "has overseen the arrest, torture, and executions of hundreds of people over his four-year presidency". "I ask all my supporters around the country to use all their capacity to help my brother, Mr Ebrahim Raisi, win the election". The narrowing of the field to two main candidates, he said, also makes it less likely that voting will go to a second round - a situation that arises when no one exceeds 50 percent support in the first. The nuclear deal would also ideally bring some peace in the region between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Raisi is a former prosecutor and current custodian of Astan Quds Razavi, the foundation managing the affairs of Imam Reza's shrine, which has an annual revenue of $210 billion. His links to Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps and hard-line ruling clerics could push undecided voters to the Rouhani camp.

President Hassan Rouhani has cast his hardline clerical opponents as power-hungry pawns of Iran's security forces, going far beyond the traditional boundaries of Iranian political discourse in a blistering final TV debate a week before an election. That is not to say, however, that all of Qalibaf's supporters will automatically vote for Raisi.

First Vice President of Iran, Eshaq Jahangiri speaks during a press conference in Tehran, Iran on April 15, 2017 after he submitted his application of candidacy for Iran's presidential elections which will be held on May 19.

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"A two-way race between Rouhani and Raisi will polarize society and mobilize the electorate", said Ali Vaez, senior Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group.

Iranian cleric and presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi shown at a campaign rally in Tehran, Iran.

The Supreme Leader appears to be in a dilemma - whether to promote his protégé Raisi, who is his potential successor or moderate Rouhani.

"Hand in hand we destroyed walls and built bridges, we won't allow them to destroy bridges and build walls", Rouhnai said in Isfahan on Sunday.

Raisi and Qalibaf were following the same campaign tactics, criticizing Rouhani's economic record and his policy of detente with the West.

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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