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Tehran mayor Qalibaf quits presidential race, backs hardliner Raisi

16 May 2017

Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf withdrew from Iran's presidential race on Monday, paving the way for a head-to-head battle between president Hassan Rouhani and the leading hardline challenger in this week's election.

Attracting attention for his caustic criticism of President Rouhani during live televised debates, Qalibaf was categorized as a principlist figure along with two other candidates, Ebrahim Raisi and Mostafa Aqa-Mirsalim.

Khatami, in a video posted online, urged voters to cast their ballot for Rouhani to ensure the "implementation of social and economic justice".

"The same people who promised that the nuclear deal would enable Congress to push back against Iran-literally the very same people-are now mobilizing to prevent any pressure against Iran over its threats to us and our allies", the adviser told TWS.

Iran will simultaneously hold its 12th Presidential Election and 5th City and Village Councils Elections on May 19.

"The people of Iran will announce in this election that they don't accept those who only knew executions and prison for 38 years", said Rouhani at the Monday rally. The narrowing of the field to two main candidates, he said, also makes it less likely that voting will go to a second round - a situation that arises when no one exceeds 50 percent support in the first.

Rouhani's gamble was to strike a nuclear deal with the West and get economic sanctions removed so that Iran can freely export its oil and revive the economy.

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The former President of Iran, Mohammad Khatami, called on his supporters and the Iranian people on Sunday to support current President Hassan Rouhani in the election next Friday.

In recent weeks on the campaign trail Rouhani has also taken aim at the country's Revolutionary Guards claiming that the military institution had attempted to scupper a landmark nuclear deal signed by Tehran in late 2015 with the USA, and five other world powers.

Qalibaf made his decision in order to form a "strong coalition" to oust Rouhani's "inefficient and impotent" cabinet. Iran's hard-line conservatives are widely known as "principlists".

"I thank and praise all my popular and unpretentious supporters, who have striven toward realization of the revolution's ideals with all they have", he concluded.

That past has anxious moderates and reformists in Iran. The poor, both young and old, can be seen in Iranian cities searching trash for food or cleaning vehicle windows for loose change.

To boost Rouhani's chances, "Jahangiri now needs to withdraw from the race because he needs all the backing from the reformist camp", said Bassiri Tabrizi at the Royal United Services Institute. You will see so many posters which read: No to the executioner Raisi; No to the demagogue Rouhani, my vote is regime's overthrow. A war of words between Washington and Tehran appears to reflect the new administration's view of Iran as a global threat rather than merely a regional troublemaker.