Iran extends presidential voting by another two hours

Every incumbent President has been re-elected in Iran since 1985, when Ayatollah Ali Khamenei himself won a second term. The parallels are certainly there: The race pits a populist, conservative nationalist and defender of traditional values, who draws much of his support from poorer rural voters left out of the country's economic growth, against a more moderate, internationalist incumbent, popular with urban elites. Rouhani's nearest rival in the four-man race, hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi, secured 38 percent of the vote.

"We made the victory again".

Mr Raisi was tipped in Iranian media as a potential successor for the 77-year-old supreme leader who has been in power since 1989.

Rouhani voted about an hour later. He said Rouhani garnered 23.5 million votes out of 41.2 million ballots cast.

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.

Although Rouhani brought inflation down from around 40 percent when he took office in 2013, prices are still rising at nine percent a year.

It followed a huge 73 percent turnout on Friday which forced authorities to extend polling by several hours.

Iran's president is the second-most powerful figure within Iran's political system.

Election officials repeatedly extended voting hours until midnight to accommodate long lines of voters, some of whom said they waited hours to cast their ballots.

Worldwide affairs researcher Foad Izadi, of Tehran University, said Rouhani may now have the leverage to push for more freedoms, despite opposition from the conservative-dominated judiciary and security services.

Rouhani's main challenger is Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline cleric and former prosecutor who is close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

State TV offered its congratulations in a brief statement Saturday, based on vote tallies.

Although Rouhani has been deeply entrenched in Iran's security establishment since the early days of the revolution, he has emerged as the standard-bearer for reformists after their movement was decimated in the wake of mass protests in 2009.

Although considered a moderate by Iranian standards, Rouhani was nonetheless the favorite pick for those seeking more liberal reforms in the conservative Islamic Republic. Eshaq Jahangiri, a candidate in the election until a few days ago, pulled out and asked his backers to support Rouhani.

If no-one wins more than 50 per cent of votes cast, a run-off will be held next week.



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