Tehran mayor quits race for Iran presidency

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.

Conservative candidate and current Mayor of Tehran Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf has withdrawn from the presidential race just days ahead of election day.

Es'haq Jahangiri, the Iranian first vice president and a candidate in the country's 12th presidential election, has dropped out of the race to back moderate President Hassan Rouhani.

"Some issues can not be resolved if the government has only 51 percent of votes", Rouhani said.

Addressing the Iranian people, he said, "We hope that on the day of the election (May 19), we would decide our fate for the coming years and decades".

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Seemingly encouraged by the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, hardliners have accused incumbent Hassan Rouhani of wanting to import Western decadence and to open up Iran to the destructive power of USA business.

The first vice president added that he regarded support for President Rouhani's administration, which managed to prepare the ground and make up for the past mismanagement, as the support for the entire Islamic establishment.

Iran has since resumed crucial oil exports to Europe and concluded billion-dollar deals to purchase passenger planes, but the effects have yet to trickle down to most Iranians, creating an opening for hard-liners, who feel Rouhani gave too much away.

According to Ali Asghar Ahmadi, the head of the Interior Ministry's State Elections Committee, a total of 56,410,234 Iranians can cast their ballots in the election this year.

"Vote for Rouhani because he is the man for hard situations..."

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"There's nothing that....brings out young, liberal voters like a hard-line conservative, which Raisi is", Kupchan said.

Raisi still faces "an uphill battle" as Rouhani will also benefit from Qalibaf's exit, said Vaez, noting the "paradox" that Iran's so-called Principlist or conservative camp is now rallying around Raisi.

The former prosecutor is now head of a multi-billion-dollar charitable foundation that manages donations to Iran's holiest shrine in the city of Mashhad.

Abrams notably doesn't have much to say about the nuclear deal with Iran.

Raisi already has the support of two major clerical bodies that declined to endorse anyone in the last presidential election, snubbing Rouhani, who himself is a cleric.

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That has led to speculation that Iran's next government will engage less with the West, especially after Khamenei called on whoever wins to avoid relying on foreign investors to strengthen the economy - a comment widely interpreted as a criticism of Rouhani.

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