All Set for Friday Vote

Over 56 million eligible Iranians can vote at 63,000 polling stations with more than 130,000 ballot boxes
Abdolreza Rahmani FazliAbdolreza Rahmani Fazli

Iranians go to the polls on Friday to decide whether the incumbent President Hassan Rouhani will keep his job in a head-to-head contest with principlist Ebrahim Raeisi.

Campaigning was in full swing across the country Wednesday, before it ends 24 hours before the vote.

The two rivals were on the stump doing their best to appeal to fence-sitting voters and convince them to move in their favor.

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, the body under whose ministry the voting is held, said Wednesday over 56 million eligible Iranians can vote at 63,000 polling stations with more than 130,000 ballot boxes.

Speaking at a press conference, Rahmani Fazli said 131 stations would open in 103 countries for the presidential vote, covering over 2.5 million Iranian expatriates.

An estimated 71,000 election monitors have been employed to help ensure a clean poll and over 160,000 police officers would be deployed across the country to take care of security needs, he said.

The Friday vote is being held concurrent with the nationwide city council elections plus midterm parliamentary elections in four constituencies.

For the city council vote, Rahmani Fazli said ballot boxes are  replaced by voting machines in one-sixth of the polling stations, covering 141 mid-size cities, home to one-third of eligible voters.

Overall, there are 39,575 councilor seats for grabs in 1,245 cities, 1,057 counties and 2,589 villages.

  Early Announcement

The interior minister said the final outcome of the presidential poll will be announced after the full counting was over, unlike the previous elections in which the results were announced gradually as the counting process went forward.

"The results will be announced sooner than the previous votes. However, we won't sacrifice accuracy for speed," he said.

The contest for president was initially a six-man race, but the withdrawal of Tehran mayor, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and Vice President Es'haq Jahangiri resulted in a four-man contest.

The former stepped aside to boost support for Raeisi and the latter dropped out in favor of Rouhani.

The two remaining low-profile candidates are Mostafa Hashemitaba, the 71-year-old former industries minister, and Mostafa Mirsalim, the 70-year-old former culture minister.

Rouhani, 68, is seen as the contender with the highest chance of victory, given the fact that none of his predecessors failed in their reelection bid and his challenger Raeisi is a political neophyte, despite being a longtime judge.

Elections in Iran have hardly been predictable. Should the two aspirants fail to get 50% plus of the vote , a second round will be held on May 26. Observers say it is unlikely that one of the two contestants will not bag more than 50% of the vote.


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