Conservative drops out of Iran election to back hard-liner against Rouhani

Conservative drops out of Iran election to back hard-liner against Rouhani

Conservative drops out of Iran election to back hard-liner against Rouhani

"Repeat the vote for dear Rouhani, to boost hope for future", he said on Sunday, referring to Friday's presidential election.

Tehran's mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, a candidate for Iran's upcoming presidential election, said on Monday that he decides to withdraw from the presidential race to back another candidate Ebrahim Raisi, state TV reported.

The president has faced a significant challenge from conservatives because the landmark nuclear deal with world powers that he negotiated in 2015 has not triggered the economic recovery he predicted. Every Iranian president since 1981 has won a second term.

The promise of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution "can only be achieved by changing the status quo", Ghalibaf said.

Having now called on conservative voters to unite behind Raisi, Qalibaf could conceivably upset forecasts that Rouhani was on course for a comfortable victory.

From now on, Qalibaf will throw his weight behind Raisi, the senior member added, describing the withdrawal as a "strong coalition" against the incumbent administration.

There was no immediate reaction from Rouhani. It is likely others will drop out to solidify support for other candidates, especially as one of them is serving as vice president in Rouhani's government.

With President Rouhani's economic record under attack from both Qalibaf and Raisi, the election campaign has grown increasingly bitter and confrontational in the past week.

Mustaf Heshmat Zadeh, a volunteer campaigning for the president, said in remarks to #Kuwait News Agency (KUNA) that pro-Rouhani activists have been holding intensive face-to-face conversations and dialogue with citizens at the campaigns' booths and public places, encouraging them to partake in the voting.

It's unclear how much support Qalibaf enjoys today.

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Also, many residents in the country's capital had been angry at Qalibaf and Tehran authorities after a massive January fire at a historic high-rise caused the building to collapse, killing 26 people, including 16 firefighters.

"I wanted to boycott this election because I am so disappointed with Rouhani's failure to bring more freedom to Iran", said teacher Reza Mirsadegh in the central city of Yazd.

A large voter turnout in the upcoming presidential election will boost Iran's image in the worldwide arena and its diplomatic power, making major powers take a more serious account of the country, a foreign policy expert and former Iranian ambassador to Syria said.

Former Secretary of State John Kerry and other top national security experts are backing an organisation aimed at defending the Iran nuclear deal, as Donald Trump determines for the first time whether to temporarily alleviate some restrictions on the country. Raisi, who is also running on a campaign to improve the economy, said in the Golestan province: "Citizen's right means the right of an unemployed to find job".

Mr Raisi, is now the head of the powerful Imam Reza shrine and charitable foundation in the holy city of Mashhad and, in addition to attracting support from traditional conservatives, is seen as the favoured candidate of the security establishment. He already has the support of two major clerical bodies that declined to endorse anyone in the last presidential election.

A reformist dropping out ahead of the 2013 election helped Rouhani edge out a almost 51 percent majority to win.

One of the three ratified Principlist candidates, Ayatollah Ebrahim Raisi, is the controversial custodian of the shrine of the eighth Shia Imam, the largest and richest religious endowment.

"The same people who promised that the nuclear deal would enable Congress to push back against Iran-literally the very same people-are now mobilizing to prevent any pressure against Iran over its threats to us and our allies", the adviser told TWS.

Raisi also kept up his efforts to reach out to poor and religiously conservative voters. "In Tehran, his votes will go mainly to Rouhani but outside Tehran his supporters will vote for Raisi", said political analyst Hamid Farahvashian.

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