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.
EVOLVING SITUATION: Of the latest cases, 23 percent were found to be asymptomatic, but the coronavirus strain in Da Nang is more contagious, authorities said A COVID-19 outbreak that began in the Vietnamese city of Da Nang more than a week ago has spread to at least four city factories with a combined workforce of about 3,700, state media reported yesterday. Four cases were found at the plants in different industrial parks in the central city that collectively employ 77,000 people, the Lao Dong newspaper said. Vietnam, praised widely for its decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus since it first appeared in late January, is battling new clusters of infection having gone for more than three months without detecting any domestic transmissions. Authorities yesterday reported one new
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
Three Micronesian sailors stranded on a remote Pacific island have been found alive and well after a rescue team spotted their giant SOS message written into the sand on a beach. Australian and US military aircraft found the three men on tiny Pikelot island, nearly 200km west of where they had set off. Rescuers said that the men were “in good condition” with no significant injuries. The men had been missing for three days after their 7m skiff ran out of fuel and strayed off course. Authorities in the US territory of Guam raised the alarm on Saturday after the men failed to complete
A cat that went missing on a family holiday on the shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland, has been identified 12 years later. Tortoiseshell-and-white Georgie spent October half term in 2008 with her owners at the Rowardennan campsite, but vanished as they were due to return home to Greater Manchester, England. After a search of the site the Davies family departed without Georgie, hoping the three-year-old microchipped feline would be located by someone. Over the intervening 12 years, she remained close to the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park site, being fed and cared for by campsite staff and holidaymakers. After the COVID-19 pandemic hit and lockdown