Rivals unite to oust Rouhani as Iran election enters final days

Rivals unite to oust Rouhani as Iran election enters final days

"However, Raisi is even a weaker candidate, he does not speak well, he is known for his ruthlessness in the 80s, he is inexperienced, and the middle-class Iranians are really afraid of him which pushes them to reluctantly vote for Rouhani", said Ghasseminejad.

Iran's presidential election essentially became a two-horse race again on May 15 when Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf withdrew from the contest to support fellow conservative Ebrahim Raisi, state television reported.

55-year-old Qalibaf, a former Revolutionary Guards commander and police chief, was one of the main challengers to President Hassan Rouhani who is seeking a second term.

"I ask all my supporters to contribute their full capacity and support for the success of my brother, Ebrahim Raisi", Qalibaf said in a statement announcing his withdrawal, according to the state TV. The poll, published last week, shows Rouhani at 42 percent and Raisi with 27 percent, but the poll was conducted before Qalibaf dropped out.

Rohani's supporters have called for the release of the opposition figures at many of his campaign events in recent days. While the nuclear deal allowed Iran to resume crucial oil exports to Europe and sign billion-dollar airplane deals, chronic unemployment and inflation remain major concerns.

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.

Bahram Ghasemi made the remark in his weekly press conference on Monday, while addressing a question about the promise President Rouhani had made during the fiery final debate on Friday.

The president has faced a significant challenge from conservatives because the landmark nuclear deal with world powers that he negotiated in 2015 has not triggered the economic recovery he predicted.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani speaks at a news conference near the United Nations General Assembly in NY, U.S., September 22, 2016.

If no candidate win more than 50 percent of the votes in the election on May 19, a run-off will be held a week later.

In 2013, Khatami helped Rouhani take office by convincing reformist Mohammad Reza Aref to step aside in Rouhani's favour.

"Qalibaf's votes will be divided between Rouhani and Raisi. We have resolved some problems and bigger problems remain for us to resolve on this hard path with him".

Iran's Presidential candidate Eshaq Jahangiri has promised his country's Sunni Muslims that he will defend their rights if he is elected.

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.

But it is also arguable that the only chance to diffuse the tension between the West and Iran in the long term is for the moderates to stay in power.

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