Published: Fri, May 19, 2017
Science | By Hubert Green

Polls open in first Iranian presidential vote since nuclear deal

Polls open in first Iranian presidential vote since nuclear deal

Millions of Iranians voted late into the night Friday to decide whether incumbent President Hassan Rouhani deserves another four years in office after securing a landmark nuclear deal, or if the sluggish economy demands a new hard-line leader who could return the country to a more confrontational path with the West. There was a festive atmosphere in Tehran where Rouhani, a 68-year-old moderate cleric who spearheaded a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, was mobbed by cheering supporters as he voted in a city centre mosque. Raisi also has promised monthly cash payments to the poor, a populist move that's been popular with Iranian voters in the past. Hassan Rouhani, the country's reformist president, hopes to be re-elected.

Raisi, 56, is a hard-line cleric close to Khamenei who has vowed to combat poverty and corruption.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cast his vote at his compound just minutes after polls opened, saying: "The destiny of the country is in the hands of Iranians". Raisi campaign posters were taped to several walls. US President Donald Trump has previously said that he would "rip up" the nuclear deal.

With new steel production capacity coming online, one private steel producer said Iranian steelmakers need export markets more than ever, and Rouhani has tried to make that part of his legacy. However, Iran's sluggish economy and poverty remain the top issues for average Iranians who have yet to see the benefits of the atomic accord.

"We continue to contend that Iran is one of the most under-appreciated upside oil price risks in the oil market", said Helima Croft, an analyst with RBC Capital Markets. Now she and her husband, a government employee, feel they have to scrimp and be more careful about what they buy. "Now my colleagues can travel to France and the U.S.", she said. "Now we have to make a shopping list and make the list shorter every day".

He has a decent job working as a software developer, a sought-after position that pays well. Reformist-Activist Mostafa Tajzadeh was quoted by FP, saying that although he is anxious that promise of cash might influence the poor and unemployed voters, he also points out how the Iranian middle-class and liveral voters are unenthusiastic about the elections.

Iran describes itself as an Islamic Republic. "I hope we are not forced to leave the country", he said.

"The enthusiastic participation of Iranians in the election reinforces our national power and security", he said, as polling stations reported queues were far bigger than in last year's parliamentary election. He believes there is still a lot of work to be done.

Rouhani in particular was at the intellectual forefront of Iran's move to the economic right as head of the Center for Strategic Research, and he has espoused a critical view on minimum wages and labor unions, while general state policy under his administration has been to promote economic development through foreign direct investment rather than state-oriented pro-growth economic policies and government interventionism. And he worries about what his 2-1/2 year old son, Shahab, a curly haired cutie who plays the Subway Surfers video game on his dad's smartphone, will be taught once he goes to school. Rouhani is clearly emboldened: partly due to his candid personality, and partly due to the fact that significant electoral malfeasance remains extremely costly - but not impossible - for the entire system, as evidenced by chants for Mousavi and Karroubi at Rouhani's campaign rallies across the country. "We shouldn't put up walls around us", he said.

"For a number of people, for an important section of is about respect, it is about human rights, it is about security and stability". He speaks about "gradual changes with small steps". But he sees Rouhani as the best choice available.

"Any candidate who is elected should be helped to accomplish this heavy responsibility", Rouhani said.

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