Iran's re-engagement with the world at stake in Friday presidential vote

Vice president and presidential contender, Es'haq Jahangiri, announced on Tuesday he has dropped out in favor of incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, urging his backers to turn out in large numbers to give Rouhani a stronger mandate to press ahead with his plans to bolster the economy and promote social freedoms.

However, Hashemitaba did not say if he is going to withdraw from the presidential race.

Mayor of Tehran Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, a figure in the principlist political faction who struggled to drum up support for his presidential campaign by hammering Rouhani, chose to quit the race on Monday in favor of Raeisi.

Iranians will go to the polls Friday, the same day Donald Trump begins his first foreign trip as U.S. President arriving in Saudi Arabia, where the kingdom's leaders vowed this month to start "the battle against Iran".

Many now believe that the vice president may contest the presidency for real at the next election in 2021.

Rouhani and Jahangiri have claimed if the hardliners return to power the country will revert to suffocating security atmosphere.

Pedestrians walk under an electoral banner of presidential candidate Ebraim Raisi in a square in downtown Tehran, Iran, Thursday, May 11, 2017. He was President of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009- 2014) and Chair of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (Caucus) from 2004-2014.

So far in public Khamenei has called only for a high turnout, saying Iran's enemies have sought to use the elections to "infiltrate" its power structure, and a high turnout would prove the system's legitimacy.

Unofficial polls still show moderate President Hassan Rouhani as the front-runner, but he has a tougher-than-expected challenge from his conservative rivals due to the continued stagnation of the economy.

"Vote for Rouhani because he is the man for hard situations".

"To me, supporting Dr. Rouhani and voting for him is equal to supporting the mighty Iranian nation", Jahangiri told the Tehran Times.

The campaign has been marked by stark differences over economic policy between the investment-friendly Rouhani, the architect of the 2015 nuclear deal, and conservatives who want to expand subsidies for the poor and spur domestic industry.

A close ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Raisi is also thought to be in line to become supreme leader in the future.

  • Zachary Reyes