Iran’s polls finally closed after Friday’s election was extended to cope with the large numbers turning out to give their verdict on President Hassan Rouhani and his troubled efforts to rebuild international ties and kickstart the struggling economy.
Rouhani, a 68-year-old moderate cleric who spearheaded a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, has framed the vote as a choice between greater civil liberties and “extremism”.
But he has faced stiff competition from hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, 56, who positioned himself as a defender of the poor and called for a much tougher line with the West.
Reporting from Tehran, FRANCE 24’s Sanam Shantyaei said, “The Iranian capital is gripped by election fever. Voters are aware that the two main candidates can lead the country down two very different paths.”
The interior ministry extended the vote to midnight as it became clear thousands were still waiting in line when the initial closing time arrived four hours earlier.
“The enthusiastic participation of Iranians in the election reinforces our national power and security,” said Rouhani as he cast his vote in Tehran.
State media said more than 30 million — over half of the country’s registered voters — had already cast their ballot when the initial deadline was reached.