Iranians yesterday poured into polling stations to give their verdict on Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his troubled efforts to rebuild ties with the world and kick-start the struggling economy.
Rouhani, a 68-year-old moderate cleric who spearheaded a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, has sought to frame the election as a choice between greater civil liberties and “extremism.”
However, he faces competition from hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, 56, who has positioned himself as a defender of the poor and called for a tougher line with the West.
“We are still not pleased with the situation, but in the four years of Rouhani there has been a relative improvement and I’m voting to keep that,” said Alireza Nikpour, a 40-year-old photographer in Tehran.
The Iranian president and his popular Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Javad Zarif were swarmed by supporters as they voted early in the capital.
Together, they helped secure the landmark deal with six powers led by the US that eased crippling economic sanctions in exchange for curbs to Iran’s nuclear program.
“The enthusiastic participation of Iranians in the election reinforces our national power and security,” Rouhani said after casting his vote.
Raisi said he would stick by the nuclear deal, but pointed to a persistent economic slump as evidence Rouhani’s diplomatic efforts have failed.
“Instead of using the capable hands of our young people to resolve problems, they are putting our economy in the hands of foreigners,” he said at a closing campaign rally in second city Mashhad on Wednesday.
He has targeted working-class voters hit by high unemployment and subsidy cuts, as well as those who worry the values of the 1979 revolution are under threat.
“I think the most important factors are the ones we had a revolution for, like establishing social justice and removing poverty,” 23-year-old engineering student Mohammad Ali Serkani said at a polling station in Tehran.
“I voted Raisi, because the Rouhani government and the nuclear deal stopped a lot of research in scientific fields such as nuclear, missile and space technology,” he added.
Rouhani has said that hardliners must be kept away from Iran’s diplomatic levers at a delicate moment in relations with the US.
“One wrong decision by the president can mean war,” he said at his own Mashhad rally.
Rouhani on Wednesday gained a reprieve when Washington agreed to continue waiving nuclear-related sanctions, keeping the deal on track for now.
However, US President Donald Trump has launched a 90-day review of the accord that could see it abandoned and is visiting Iran’s bitter regional rival Saudi Arabia this weekend.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cast his vote at his compound in Tehran just minutes after polls opened, saying: “The destiny of the country is in the hands of Iranians.”
Long queues formed at polling stations around the country after a short, but gripping campaign that has captivated the nation.
“For me, Mr Rouhani’s dialogue with the world and moderation in society are very important,” said Zahra, a 32-year-old doctoral student in food science at another Tehran polling station.
Under Rouhani’s predecessor, hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, “the sanctions really hurt us. It was hard to get lab equipment and very difficult to get visas to study abroad. Now my colleagues can travel to France and the US,” she said.
Despite the global implications, it is the economy that has dominated the campaign.
Rouhani has brought inflation down from about 40 percent when he took office in 2013, but prices are still rising by 9 percent per year.
India has moved additional troops along its northern border as it prepares for an extended conflict with China, after several rounds of talks failed to ease tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals. China has already placed about 5,000 soldiers and armored vehicles within its side of the disputed border in the Ladakh region, an Indian government official said, asking not to be identified, citing rules. India is adding a similar number of troops as well as artillery guns along the border to fend off the continuing incursions by the Chinese army, the official said. The standoff began on May 5, when troops clashed
CLOSELY TRACKED: A US officer said that the warplanes were watched as they flew from Russia by way of Iran and Syria to Libya and were photographed multiple times The US Africa Command flatly rejected Russian claims that Moscow did not deploy fighter jets to Libya, saying on Friday that the 14 aircraft flown in reflect Russia’s long-term goal to establish a foothold in the region that could threaten NATO allies. US Brigadier General Gregory Hadfield, deputy director of intelligence, said that the US tracked the MiG-29s and Su-24 fighter bombers flown in by Russian military, passing through Iran and Syria before landing at Libya’s al-Jufra air base. The base is the main forward airfield for Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and his self-styled Libyan National Army, which has been waging an
Singapore’s otters, long adored by the city-state’s nature lovers, are popping up in unexpected places during the COVID-19 lockdown, but their antics have angered some and even sparked calls for a cull. With the streets empty, the creatures have been spotted hanging out by a shopping center, scampering through the lobby of a hospital and even feasting on pricey fish stolen from a pond. While many think of tiny Singapore as a densely populated concrete jungle, it is also relatively green for a busy Asian city, and has patches of rainforest, fairly clean waterways and abundant wildlife. There are estimated to be about
Indonesian officials are forcing people who break social distancing rules to recite Koran verses, stay in “haunted” houses and submit to public shaming on social media as the country battles to contain surging novel coronavirus infections. The Southeast Asian archipelago began deploying about 340,000 troops across two dozen cities to oversee enforcement of measures aimed at halting transmission of the disease, such as wearing masks in public. However, provincial leaders are buttressing these efforts with their own zealous campaigns to fight the coronavirus. Police in western Bengkulu Province have assembled a 40-person squad to find lockdown scofflaws and force them to wear