dglobalnews.com Tehran mayor Ghalibaf withdraws candidacy in Iran's presidential candidacy
Published: Tue, May 16, 2017
Global Media | By Cecelia Webb

Tehran mayor Ghalibaf withdraws candidacy in Iran's presidential candidacy

Tehran mayor Ghalibaf withdraws candidacy in Iran's presidential candidacy

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - A conservative candidate dropped out of Iran's presidential election on Monday to back a hard-liner, state television reported, narrowing the field of those hoping to unseat moderate President Hassan Rouhani.

Friday's election is largely viewed as a referendum on the 2015 nuclear deal shepherded by Rouhani's administration, which requires Iran to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of some economic sanctions.

President Hassan Rouhani is contesting for reelection, along with four other contenders, namely reformist Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri, ex-vice president, Mostafa Hashemitaba, and principlists Ebrahim Raeisi, the custodian of the holy shrine of Imam Reza (PBUH), and former culture minister, Mostafa Mirsalim.

Although the President has long cast himself as an insider and pragmatist rather than a gung-ho reformer, he seems to have shed that moderate image in recent days, seeking to energise voters who want less confrontation overseas and more freedom at home. He called a vote for Raisi a "crucial decision" to "preserve the unity" of the revolution.

However, Qalibaf, a 55-year-old former Republic Guard air force commander and police chief, managed to turn the May 19 election into a three-way contest with a performance that had him only slightly trailing Raisi in the opinion polls.

NCRI users uploaded videos that allegedly show Iranians k holding signs against elections, or against Rouhani, or Raisi in public places in Tehran and Ara. "At this point, it is hard to see Raisi winning the election without help from the IRGC and the Guardian Council in the form of voter fraud".

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While it was clear that US President Barack Obama had sought an opening with Iran - he shook hands with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif behind closed doors in New York - Iran's leadership, in particular the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, never trusted the opposing side enough to allow discussions to go beyond the nuclear file.

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

This was Qalibaf's third presidential campaign after losing to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005 and to Rouhani in 2013. It would be better for Iran and the wider region if Rouhani won, if only because it would deprive hawks in Washington and Riyadh of a new excuse for even more aggressive policies. "After all you are a judge, your hands are open", Rouhani said.

He reached a deal with world powers in 2015 which lifted most worldwide sanctions in return for curbing Iran's nuclear programme.

"We have started on a path with Rohani and we have come halfway", he said.

The focus of the final debate was on the economy as the candidates, who are all male, outlined their vision for Iran's future.

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