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Iranians turn out in large numbers to vote

  • In this photo released by official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani holds his ballot while voting for the presidential and municipal councils election at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 19, 2017. Iranians began voting Friday in the country's first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers, as incumbent Hassan Rouhani faced a staunch challenge from a hard-line opponent over his outreach to the wider world. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP) Uncredited

  • Iranian Clerics queue to vote for the presidential and municipal councils elections, in the city of Qom, south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 19, 2017. Iranians began voting Friday in the country's first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers, as incumbent Hassan Rouhani faced a staunch challenge from a hard-line opponent over his outreach to the West. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) Ebrahim Noroozi

  • Voters wait to get ballots to cast in the presidential and municipal council election at a polling station in Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 19, 2017. Iranians began voting Friday in the country's first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers, as incumbent Hassan Rouhani faced a staunch challenge from a hard-line opponent over his outreach to the wider world. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi) Vahid Salemi

  • A man fills out his ballots to vote in the presidential and municipal council election in Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 19, 2017. Iranians began voting Friday in the country's first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers, as incumbent Hassan Rouhani faced a staunch challenge from a hard-line opponent over his outreach to the wider world. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi) Vahid Salemi

  • In this picture released by an official website of the office of the Iranian supreme leader, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei casts his ballot for the presidential election in Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 19, 2017. Iranians voted Friday in the country's first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers, as incumbent Hassan Rouhani faced a staunch challenge from a hard-line opponent over his outreach to the West. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP) Uncredited

  • Female voters queue at a polling station for the presidential and municipal council election in the city of Qom, 78 miles (125 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 19, 2017. Iranians began voting Friday in the country's first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers, as incumbent Hassan Rouhani faced a staunch challenge from a hard-line opponent over his outreach to the wider world. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) Ebrahim Noroozi

  • Iranian women queue to vote for the presidential and municipal councils elections, in the city of Qom, south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 19, 2017. Iranians began voting Friday in the country's first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers, as incumbent Hassan Rouhani faced a staunch challenge from a hard-line opponent over his outreach to the West. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) Ebrahim Noroozi

  • Voters wait to get ballots to cast in the presidential and municipal council election at a polling station in the city of Qom, 78 miles (125 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 19, 2017. Iranians began voting Friday in the country's first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers, as incumbent Hassan Rouhani faced a staunch challenge from a hard-line opponent over his outreach to the wider world. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) Ebrahim Noroozi

  • Iranian voters enter a polling station for the presidential and municipal councils elections in Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 19, 2017. Iranians began voting Friday in the country's first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers, as incumbent Hassan Rouhani faced a staunch challenge from a hard-line opponent over his outreach to the wider world. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi) Vahid Salemi

  • Iranian women queue at a polling station to vote for the presidential and municipal councils elections, in the city of Qom, south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 19, 2017. Iranians began voting Friday in the country's first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers, as incumbent Hassan Rouhani faced a staunch challenge from a hard-line opponent over his outreach to the West. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) Ebrahim Noroozi

  • Iranian men queue at a polling station to vote for the presidential and municipal councils elections, in the city of Qom, south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 19, 2017. Iranians began voting Friday in the country's first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers, as incumbent Hassan Rouhani faced a staunch challenge from a hard-line opponent over his outreach to the West. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) Ebrahim Noroozi

  • A cleric voter casts her ballot during the presidential and municipal council election at a polling station in the city of Qom, 78 miles (125 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 19, 2017. Iranians began voting Friday in the country's first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers, as incumbent Hassan Rouhani faced a staunch challenge from a hard-line opponent over his outreach to the wider world. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) Ebrahim Noroozi

  • Iranian voters queue at a polling station for the presidential and municipal council election in the city of Qom, 78 miles (125 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 19, 2017. Iranians began voting Friday in the country's first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers, as incumbent Hassan Rouhani faced a staunch challenge from a hard-line opponent over his outreach to the wider world. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) Ebrahim Noroozi

  • An Iranian voter casts her ballot during the presidential and municipal council election at a polling station in the city of Qom, 78 miles (125 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 19, 2017. Iranians began voting Friday in the country's first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers, as incumbent Hassan Rouhani faced a staunch challenge from a hard-line opponent over his outreach to the wider world. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) Ebrahim Noroozi

  • A voter gets ballots to cast in the presidential and municipal council election at a polling station in the city of Qom, 78 miles (125 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Friday, May 19, 2017. Iranians began voting Friday in the country's first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers, as incumbent Hassan Rouhani faced a staunch challenge from a hard-line opponent over his outreach to the wider world. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) Ebrahim Noroozi



Associated Press
Friday, May 19, 2017

TEHRAN, Iran — Millions of Iranians voted late into the night Friday to decide whether incumbent President Hassan Rouhani deserves another four years in office after securing a landmark nuclear deal, or if the sluggish economy demands a new hard-line leader who could return the country to a more confrontational path with the West.

The Islamic Republic’s first presidential election since the 2015 nuclear accord drew surprisingly large numbers of voters to polling stations, with some reporting waiting in line for hours to cast their votes. Election officials extended voting hours at least three times at the more than 63,000 polling places to accommodate the crowds.

Four candidates remain in the race. But for most voters only two mattered, both of them clerics with very different views for the country’s future: Rouhani and hard-line law professor and former prosecutor Ebrahim Raisi.

Rouhani is a political moderate by Iranian standards, but the 68-year-old has come to embody more liberal and reform-minded Iranians’ hopes for greater political freedom at home and better relations with the outside world.

His supporters are also hoping he can make better progress on improving the economy, a key issue on the minds of the country’s 56 million eligible voters. Many say they are yet to see the benefits of the nuclear deal, which saw Iran limit its contested nuclear program over the objection of hard-liners in exchange for the lifting of some sanctions.

In Tehran, whose liberal and affluent voters form the bedrock of support for Rouhani, lines at some precincts were much longer than those in his 2013 win. Analysts have suggested a high turnout will aid Rouhani in securing a second four-year term.