Mil­lions flock to polls in Iran to vote in pres­i­den­tial elec­tion

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - NATION & WORLD -

TEHRAN, Iran — 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.

The Is­lamic Repub­lic’s first pres­i­den­tial elec­tion since the 2015 nu­clear ac­cord drew large num­bers of vot­ers to polling sta­tions, with some re­port­ing wait­ing in line for hours to cast their votes. Elec­tion of­fi­cials ex­tended vot­ing hours at least three times at the more than 63,000 polling places to ac­com­mo­date the crowds.

Four can­di­dates re­main in the race. But for most vot­ers only two mat­tered, both of them cler­ics with dif­fer­ent views for the coun­try’s fu­ture: Rouhani and hard-line law­pro­fes­sor and for­mer pros­e­cu­tor Ebrahim Raisi.

Rouhani is a po­lit­i­cal mod­er­ate by Ira­nian stan­dards, but the 68-year-old has come to em­body more lib­eral and re­form-minded Ira­ni­ans’ hopes for greater po­lit­i­cal free­dom at home and bet­ter re­la­tions with the out­side world.

His sup­port­ers are also hop­ing he can make bet­ter progress on im­prov­ing the econ­omy, a key is­sue on the minds of the coun­try’s 56 mil­lion el­i­gi­ble vot­ers. Many say they are yet to see the ben­e­fits of the nu­clear deal.

Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei, the most pow­er­ful man in Iran, sym­bol­i­cally cast the elec­tion’s first vote. He called for a large turnout, say­ing “the coun­try is in the hands of all peo­ple.”

Raisi’s camp filed a com­plaint to au­thor­i­ties over what they called “elec­tion vi­o­la­tions” even be­fore the polls closed, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the semi-of­fi­cial Tas­nim news agency.

BEHROUZ MEHRI/GETTY-AFP

An Ira­nian boy casts his mother’s bal­lot for pres­i­dent Fri­day in Tehran, the cap­i­tal.

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