Iran's Rouhani says upcoming election 'historical decision'

Rouhani Vows To Target All US Sanctions If Re-Elected

Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf quit the Iranian presidential race, backing instead hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi in Friday's vote.

During his election campaign in 2013 Rouhani called for a greater realisation of rights for minorities, and his government has implemented legislation permitting students in Iranian Kurdistan to study the Kurdish language at school, with some universities also set to introduce further studies in Kurdish.

Raisi is challenging Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in this Friday's presidential election.

He has accused incumbent President Hassan Rohani of mismanagement and favoring rich Iranians at the expense of the poor.

Raisi's popularity has risen steadily in recent weeks and Qalibaf's move should give him a last-minute boost against Rouhani, who has eased Iran's worldwide isolation though failed to spur a sluggish economy. Three other candidates, who are polling in the low single digits, remain in the contest. Otherwise the top two candidates will run for the second round on May 26.

Qalibaf made his decision in order to form a "strong coalition" to oust Rouhani's "inefficient and impotent" cabinet.

In announcing his decision, Qalibaf asked his supporters "to contribute their full capacity and support for the success of my brother, Ebrahim Raisi".




"We will use Qalibaf's experiences and his managerial capabilities in the next government", Tasnim news agency quoted Raisi as saying on Monday.

In the wake of Qalibaf's withdrawal, Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, told Bloomberg that it's not a given that most Qalibaf supporters will automatically switch to Raisi.

"The leverage of my power does not possess some things, but some things will be possible with a vote of more than 51 percent", he said during a campaign stop in western Iran.

Raisi faces having to reach out to a wider conservative base in the next few days, Bassiri Tabrizi added, but noted that things are "definitely more hard for Rouhani now. We can not take the renewal of his mandate for granted".

Some conservatives had been unhappy that Qalibaf was standing again and risking a split in the anti-Rouhani vote. "It's the Tehran vote that Rouhani has got to get out and Raisi running will help him do that".

Raisi still faces "an uphill battle" as Rouhani will also benefit from Qalibaf's exit, Vaez said, noting the "paradox" that Iran's so-called Principlist or conservative camp is now rallying around Raisi. The main battleground between the two factions is the selection of a successor for the Supreme Leader, in which the "reformers" have no chance given that their most prominent candidate, Hashemi Rafsanjani, a founder of the regime and former president, had a mysterious heart attack just few months ago.

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