Iran presidential election: Conservative candidate Ghalibaf withdraws

Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf pulled out of the presidential election and urged his supporters to back a conservative clericATTA KENARE  AFP  GETTY IMAGES

Mostafa Hashemitaba, a candidate in Iran's May 19 presidential election, has called on Iranians to cast votes in the favor of incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, ISNA news agency reported.

It is yet to be seen if Khatami does the same in this election to the reformist First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri who is running alongside Rouhani.

Tehran's hardline mayor, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, has withdrawn from Iran's presidential election. If the current field was reduced to the pair, 48 percent of respondents would vote for Rouhani and 39 percent for Raisi, according to the survey released on May 10.

Mr Raisi is a close ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Opponents have accused the president of failing to ensure that ordinary Iranians benefited from the 2015 nuclear deal, while indicating they'll respect the accord.

The decision brings the number of candidates competing in Friday's election to five, though more may drop out in the coming days to solidify support for other candidates in the fray.

Mr Raisi, is now the head of the powerful Imam Reza shrine and charitable foundation in the holy city of Mashhad and, in addition to attracting support from traditional conservatives, is seen as the favoured candidate of the security establishment.

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". "A man who should be on trial for the most heinous crime in contemporary Iranian history, is instead seeking the presidency", said Hadi Ghaemi, the executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

"Not all of Qalibaf's supporters will move to Raisi, but he does provide some capacity for conservatives to unite", said Suzanne Maloney, an Iran scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Raisi, a former attorney general, serves as the head of the Imam Reza charity foundation, which manages a vast conglomerate of businesses and endowments in Iran. The talks to reach agreement on a deal required bilateral negotiations between Iran and the United States, at the foreign ministerial level, breaking a three-decade taboo on direct negotiations between the two countries.

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