• Iranian expats in China cast their votes in presidential election, May 19, 2017. (Photo by IRNA)

Iranians are heading to the polls at home and abroad on Friday in closely-contested elections to choose the country’s 12th president.

According to Press TV, some 63,500 polling stations opened at 08:00 a.m. local time (03:30 GMT) across the country and are to close at 18:00 (13:30 GMT) on Friday, but voting hours will likely be extended amid estimates of a high turnout.

Expatriates can also cast their ballots in the presidential election at 310 polling stations in 102 countries.

Since early in the morning, long lines had already formed at polling stations around the country. 

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei was among the first to cast his ballot.

Speaking after casting his vote, the Leader said, “I thank God Almighty for the blessing of democracy, election, and popular participation [in the election]. This is a great blessing.”

Ayatollah Khamenei described the 2017 election as highly “important” and said “The destiny of the country is in the hand of Iranians.”

“The higher turnout, the better,” said Ayatollah Khamenei. “A right job should be done as soon as possible.” 

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei casts his vote in the country’s twin elections, May 19, 2017. (Photo by Tasnim)

“City and Village Council Election is also important as it elects those who are in charge of urban and rural services, namely the everyday issues involving the people,” the Leader added.

Besides picking a president, Iranians inside the country are also voting to choose members of the country’s City and Village Councils.

This year’s presidential race features four presidential candidates, namely incumbent Hassan Rouhani, who is running for a second term, Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi, former Deputy Judiciary Chief, member of Iran’s Expediency Council Mostafa Aqa-Mirsalim and former Vice President, Mostafa Hashemi-Taba.

However, Rouhani and Raeisi are viewed as the viable contenders after two candidates from a field of six, Tehran’s Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and First Vice President Is’haq Jahangiri, dropped out in the final days of campaigning.

Rouhani has been campaigning on the platform of an active foreign policy meant to enhance international relations.

Raeisi has also vowed a strong economic management towards the elimination of poverty and unemployment.

The first vote was cast by an Iranian researcher at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand’s capital. The voting began in Wellington, as well as the country’s cities of Aukland, Christchurch and Dunedin at 09:30 a.m. local time (02:00 a.m. Tehran time, 21:30 GMT).

The Iranians based in the country were, therefore, the first ones to cast their ballots in the election.

In line with the event’s timeframe, the Iranians based in the Americas will be the last ones participating in the polls. 

Based on Iran’s Election Law, if no candidate manages to secure over 50 percent of the votes, a runoff will take place a week later.

There are more than 56 million eligible voters in Iran.

Weeks of heated campaigning came to an end on Thursday morning, 24 hours before the start of the elections.

Ayatollah Khamenei said Wednesday that the nation and Islamic establishment are the true winners of the vote no matter which candidate emerges victorious.

ME

May 19, 2017 04:52 UTC
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