Contenders quit race ahead of Iran’s presidential poll as campaigning ends

Withdrawal of two candidates comes ahead of snap election after death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash.

Two candidates in Iran’s presidential election have withdrawn from the race as campaigning ended a day ahead of the vote.

Alireza Zakani, the mayor of the capital, Tehran, said on Thursday that he was backing away, in a post on X.

The first to do so was Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, 53, who dropped his candidacy on Wednesday night and urged other candidates to do the same “so that the front of the revolution will be strengthened”, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.

The snap election will be held on Friday following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash in May. The next presidential vote was scheduled for 2025.

Hashemi served as one of Raisi’s vice presidents. He ran in the 2021 presidential election and received less than one million votes, coming in last place.

Reporting from Tehran, Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr said Hashemi’s decision to withdraw does not contribute much to the unification of the conservative camp, which remains divided as two hardliners – former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf – are fighting over the same bloc.

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(Al Jazeera)

There were expectations that one would withdraw in support of the other, Khodr said, “but that did not happen”.

Conservatives Ghalibaf and Jalili stand out as frontrunners.

Ghalibaf, a former commander of the air force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has been parliament speaker for four years, was the mayor of Tehran from 2005 to 2017, and the chief of police before that. He ran for president in 2005, 2013 and 2017, when he withdrew in favour of Raisi.

Jalili, who is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s direct representative to the country’s Supreme National Security Council, withdrew from the 2021 election in favour of Raisi, who won virtually unchallenged.

The sole reformist, Masoud Pezeshkian, a cardiac surgeon, has associated himself with the former administration of the relatively moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who reached Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Khamenei has in recent days called for a “maximum” turnout in the vote.

Khodr noted that Pezeshkian still has a chance of winning, “but it will all depend on voter turnout, and what we’ve seen in previous elections is that there have been record low numbers of people heading to the polling station”.

After the promise nearly a decade ago of Iran’s nuclear deal opening up the country to the rest of the world, Iranians face the burden of high inflation, crushing economic sanctions and a far more uncertain Middle East amid Israel’s war on Gaza and Iran’s first direct attack against Israel in April.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies