Iran Presidential Election: Hassan Rouhani leads the race, expected to win

The Iranian Interior Ministry has declared the nearly final results of the Friday presidential election, putting Hassan Rouhani in the lead with 22,796,468 votes so far.

After long hours of waiting, Spokesman of Elections Headquarters finally appeared among reporters and officially announced confirmed results of almost 26 million votes counted so far. There were about four million more votes still to be tallied, the source said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appeared to have secured a convincing election victory with voters backing his efforts to rebuild foreign ties, as initial results were announced on Saturday.

Iranians have begun voting in a closely-fought presidential election that could determine Iran's pace of social and economic reform and its re-engagement with the world.

The central achievement of his first term was a deal with six powers led by the United States that eased crippling economic sanctions in exchange for curbs to Iran's nuclear programme.

City and village council elections were organised in tandem with the 12th presidential vote. He joined the parliament after the revolution and held major posts such as head of the Supreme National Security Council. Raisi is perceived to be close to Khamenei as the supreme leader put him in charge of Astan Quds Razavi, a vast charitable foundation encompassing businesses and endowments that oversees the holy Shiite shrine of Imam Reza in Mashhad.

Iranians overseas were also voting in over 300 locations, including 55 in the USA, where more than 1 million Iranians live. They dip one of their index fingers in ink, making a print on the form, while officials stamp their ID so they can't vote twice.

Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi, a vocal Rouhani supporter, voted in Cannes, France where he was attending the film festival.

So many people turned out to vote that election officials extended voting hours three times.

The Guards hope that a win for Raisi will give them an opportunity to claw back economic and political power lost in Shi'ite Iran's complex theocratic and republican governing structure since 2015, when Iran struck a nuclear deal with world powers that brought it out of global isolation.

The two other candidates, Mostafa Aqa-Mirsalim and Mostafa Hashemitaba, are trailing behind with 297,276 and 139,331 votes, respectively.

At recent rallies, his supporters chanted the names of reformist leaders under house arrest since 2011 for their part in mass protests two years earlier.

All candidates for elected office must be vetted, a process that excludes anyone calling for radical change, along with most reformists.

The ministry said in a statement that voters can cast their ballots until 23:00 p.m. local time (1830 GMT) on Friday. Former reformist president, Mohammad Khatami, one of Iran's most popular and influential politicians, received 20m (69.6%) in 1997. No woman has ever been approved to run for president.

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