Iranians vote for president, with the nuclear deal and economy on their minds

Iranians vote for president, with the nuclear deal and economy on their minds
  1. Iranians vote for president, with the nuclear deal and economy on their minds
    The choice is between two candidates with fundamentally different visions of Iran's place in the…
    Middle Easte

ISTANBUL — Iranians cast their ballots for president Friday in a vote that could either boost Iran's engagement with the world or possibly plunge the country back into greater diplomatic isolation.

Voters formed long lines at polling stations in mosques, schools and gymnasiums across the country — from the shores of the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea — including in temperatures topping 90 degrees. Many Iranians, speaking to local media, described waiting hours to vote.

“It’s my national responsibility to take part in the elections,” 36-year-old Amin, a resident of Tehran, said to Iranian state television from a polling station Friday. Officials cited high voter turnout in extending the voting an extra two hours, leaving open the option of a further extension.

At stake is the legacy of the incumbent president, Hassan Rouhani, who ended more than a decade of sanctions as part of a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, including the United States. His top challenger is hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi who views the West with suspicion and insists that the easing of international sanctions under the nuclear pact has done little to help ordinary Iranians. Two other candidates remain in the race but are considered also-rans.

[6 photos from Iran’s campaign trail]

Rouhani has broad support among moderates and others seeking further openings in Iranian policies, from social codes to outreach with the West. But Raisi has powerful backers among Iran's security establishment and its ruling clerics, led by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Iran’s president has important sway over domestic affairs and serves as the face of Iran to the world. But all key policies, such as diplomatic initiatives, must be cleared by Khamenei and his inner circle of unelected theocrats.

Still, the election offers stark choices for Iranians on the direction of their country. No Iranian president since 1981 has failed to secure a second term, but Rouhani has faced sharp criticism over the poor economy and what Raisi described as his “weak” position when negotiating with the West.

The 2015 nuclear agreement — which curbs Iran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief — was at the heart of Rouhani’s project to end the country’s pariah status and rejoin the global economy. If reelected, however, he will face a more confrontational Trump administration, which has taken a harsh line against Iran and placed the nuclear deal under review.

Despite increased tensions with the United States since the election of President Trump, Rouhani sees Iran as benefiting from better ties with the West and from continuing to court foreign investors. He has also called for greater social and political freedoms in Iran and lashed out at rivals he accused of wanting to thwart progress.

[Sound familiar? Iranian presidential candidates debate nuclear deal]

The “era of violence and extremism is over,” Rouhani said at a rally this month.

But so far, the nuclear deal has improved little in the lives of average Iranians, and Raisi has seized on the discontent to run a populist campaign. Raisi has promised to increase cash handouts to the poor and create more than a million jobs during his first year in office. Iran's unemployment rate has hovered around 12 percent.

Raisi has pledged to uphold the nuclear deal, which had the blessing of the supreme leader. However, Raisi’s links to the influential clergy and Revolutionary Guard Corps, a powerful military force with control over key sectors of the economy, suggest an aversion to the soft power of diplomacy. Raisi himself has remained vague on foreign policy positions, but his own domestic legacy includes participation in a 1988 “Death Commission” that oversaw the execution of thousands of political prisoners.

Raisi “has run a campaign focused on economic populist themes, but has not taken strong positions on many other issues,” said Farzan Sabet, a fellow at Stanford University and founder of IranPolitik, a blog on Iranian politics.

He has done this “perhaps as a form of strategic ambiguity,” which is “intended to keep negative attention focused on his rival,” Sabet said.

[Former president Ahmadinejad wanted to run. Iran’s election vetters said no.]

On Friday, Raisi, Rouhani and Khamenei all cast ballots as the voting began nationwide, and the supreme leader urged …

  1. Erdogan looks to strengthen grip with return to AKP helm - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 17:21
    Now that Turkey's ruling party has restored President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as chair, expect a radical shakeup throughout the country in preparation for critical municipal elections to be held in March…
  2. The Gulf will control Yemen forever if the south secedes now - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 16:44
    Trying to secede right now is like trying to build a house in a hurricane - and ultimately, it's doubtful the Gulf countries will let it…
  3. What scandal? So far on his foreign tour, Trump has escaped ‘that Russia thing.’ - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 16:44
    On visit to Middle East, Trump basks in opulence and gushing Saudi media…
  4. Pippa Middleton Wedding: A Posh Version of the Kardashians? - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 16:44
    There is not, as far as we know, a drop of royal blood between them – but make no mistake, the wedding of Pippa Middleton to James Matthews was fit for a Queen. From the co-ordinated pageboy and flower girl outfits to the dazzling £200,000 engagement ring – not to mention the English sparkling wine, the Giles Deacon wedding dress, the mobile phone ban and the tight security – this was an event planned with as much meticulous attention to detail as anything the Palace could dream up. There w…
  5. Doha to Showcase Rare $2.9 Million Set of Opals Until June 15 - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 16:44
    Nearly 70 rare pieces from South Australian Museum’s opals collection worth A$4 million ($2.9 million) will be showcased at an exhibition which opens at the Australian Embassy on Wednesday. This will be the first time the pieces, which include two of the finest opals ever unearthed – the Virgin Rainbow and Fire of Australia – will go on display outside of Australia. © Dar Al Sharq Press, Printi…
  6. First Emirati with a disability gets yellow belt in karate - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 16:44
    Emirati karateka Salem Al Mehairi received his yellow belt and has become the first Emirati with a disability to register as a member of the World Federation of Martial Arts. The 19-year-old, who has cerebral palsy, received his belt from the general secretary of the UAE Karate Federation Fahkuraddin Abdul Majed at Al Wasl Club on Friday. © Al Nisr Publishing LLC 2017. All rights reserved. …
  7. Here's The Deal With That Glowing Orb — And Plenty Of Notes On What It Isn't - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 16:44
    It seemed an innocuous gesture: President Trump joined two other world leaders in laying their hands on a lit-up globe at an event in Saudi Arabia. Then, Twitter caught wind of…
  8. Palestinians on strike in solidarity with prisoners - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 16:44
    Israeli forces shot and wound 11 Palestinians in West Bank, as prisoners' mass hunger strike enters sixth…
  9. Flynn to invoke Fifth Amendment in Russia probe - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 16:44
    Trump's former National Security Adviser will reportedly decline subpoena from the Senate Intelligence…
  10. US-Israel relations - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 16:44
    The United States of America is Israel's largest benefactor since its…
  11. Portuguese coach Inacio to see out his contract at Zamalek - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 15:39
    Zamalek's Portuguese coach Augusto Inacio said on Monday that he has refused three job offers from European and Arabian teams, confirming that he wants to see out his contract with the Cairo club until the end of the 2018 season. © Copyright Al-Ahram Publishing House read …
  12. Ford Replaces CEO and Some Are Calling It a Coup - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 15:39
    Ford Motor has announced on Monday the departure of Mark Fields, its CEO of just three years, and some industry experts are calling it a 'takeover from within.' According to Reuters, the ouster of Fields is among a series of management - and strategy - changes at Ford. © 2000 - 2017 Al Bawaba ( read …
  13. Six Iraqi Soldiers Killed in Daesh Suicide Bombing at Training Center - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 15:39
    At least six soldiers were killed and around fifteen others were injured in an attack on a military base in eastern Iraq on Monday morning. Five militants attacked the Kirkush military base, located to the east of Balad Ruz in Diyala province, according to one Iraqi military official who spoke with The New Arab on condition of anonymity. Copyright @ 2017 The New Arab. …
  14. French football star Robert Pires to visit Pakistan in July - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 15:39
    French football star and former Arsenal winger Robert Pires will visit Pakistan in July. According to the Express Tribune, he will be joining Brazilian legend Ronaldinho Gaucho in a Leisure Leagues event. Pires played for French clubs Metz and Marseille prior to his time with Arsenal, where he won three FA Cups and two Premier League titles, including the club's unbeaten season of 2003-04. …
  15. How to Find Your First Job in the Middle East: A Step-by-Step Guide - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 15:39
    The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is one of the most youthful regions in the world. With so many young job seekers and recent graduates competing for entry level jobs, securing an early-career position is a challenge that many people must deal with. How does the MENA job market look like for entry level candidates? Are they able to find career opportunities after they graduate? And what type of support do they need? …
  16. Trump’s glaring omission of Russia - the bear in the Mideast room - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 15:39
    In the U.S. president’s detailed taxonomy of good and evil, one actor is conspicuously missing. It is the link that dare not speak its name, the motherland of Sergey and Sergey and Vladimir V…
  17. Indonesian police detain 141 men over 'gay sex party' - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 15:39
    Indonesian police have detained 141 men on suspicion of taking part in a gay sex party and violating pornography…
  18. Turkey blames US for guards' attack on pro-Kurd protesters - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 15:39
    Language Undefined Ankara summons US ambassador to explain 'aggression' of US police after Turkish diplomatic guards beat protesters in…
  19. Stay, Cut or Hike Production: What Will OPEC Choose to Do? - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 14:35
    The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) faces three distinct choices: stay, cut or hike output at the highly anticipated meeting in Vienna on May 25, said Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BofAML) in a new report. Copyright 2017 Al Hilal Publishing and Marketing Group read…
  20. Protests grow over closure of Norwich Muslim students' prayer space - Middle Easte
    05.22 / 14:35
    Language Undefined Students gather over 6,000 signatures in four days after University of East Anglia announces the closure of prayer…