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Iranian voters will decide the fate of moderate President Hassan Rouhani and his policy of engagement with the West on Friday as he goes head-to-head with hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi. While Iranians largely welcomed the reduced tensions with the West, the ongoing economic slump has taken a toll on morale. But many voters, particularly wealthier urbanites, are still attracted to Rouhani’s promise of greater social freedoms.
Video provided by AFP
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TEHRAN — Iranians stood in long lines Friday to vote in the country’s first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers, with President Hassan Rouhani facing a fierce challenge from a hard-line cleric who has criticized the incumbent’s pledges of greater personal freedoms and improved relations with the West.

Four candidates are officially running, with Rouhani, 68, the close favorite. He is seeking another four-year term but faces tough competition from Ebrahim Raisi, 56, a conservative with close ties to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters related to domestic and foreign policy.

“Elections are very important and the fate of the country is in the hands of all people,” Khamenei said, casting his ballot in Iran’s capital, Tehran.

The contest is largely seen as a referendum on Rouhani’s more moderate political stance and his brokering of the 2015 nuclear accord in exchange for the lifting of some economic sanctions. However, many Iranians have yet to feel the benefits of the deal, which saw Iran limit its contested nuclear program.

“Rouhani has forgotten a lot of the promises he gave four years ago,” said Gholam Hosein Sadeghi, 22, a Raisi supporter who is a student.