Iran preparing for peaceful election in insecure region

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"We just have one request: for the Basij and the Revolutionary Guards to stay in their own place for their own work", Rouhani said in a campaign speech in the city of Mashhad, according to the Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA).

Iranians head to the polls on Friday in a presidential election that could have implications for the nuclear deal with the USA, as well as for the current sanctions relief that allows the country to sell oil internationally, according to analysts at RBC Capital Markets.

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks to the audience in Tehran, Iran May 17, 2017.

Iranians go to the polling stations on May 19 to elect their president.

Rouhani's strongest challenger is hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, 56, who says Iran does not need foreign help and promises a revival of the values of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Voice of America points out that the hardliners are resorting to economic populism and accusations that Rouhani has encouraged the influence of Western decadence, in an effort to get highly conservative citizens and politically disengaged rural voters to the polls. Every Iranian president since 1981 has secured a second term. Rouhani's bid has been hampered by widespread frustration among ordinary Iranians, who have yet to see the dividends of the country's nuclear deal, inked with world powers in 2015, trickle down to them.

Under Iran's ruling system, Khamenei, who is 77 and has been in office since 1989, has more authority than the elected president but is traditionally expected to remain above the fray of day-to-day politics. But it imposed new measures to punish Iranian defence officials and a Chinese business tied to Tehran's ballistic missile programme, which it says is in breach of global law because they could carry nuclear warheads in the future. And an angry protest that greeted Rouhani when he visited the site of a deadly coal mine explosion this month signaled discontent in the provinces.

Rouhani "oversold the nuclear deal, he did not manage expectations well", Nasser Hadian-Jazy, a political scientist at Tehran University, told the Christian Science Monitor. "But he has vulnerabilities". There are also genuine concerns that the regime's conservative establishment - anchored by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps - may tamper with ballots to rig the vote in favor of Raisi, who is believed to be their preferred choice. No woman has been approved to run for president. Under the accord, Iran agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of some economic sanctions.

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"My husband is sexually provoked by these ladies in their tight dresses", said Noreyye Mahdi, a 26-year-old draped in a full-length black abaya on a warm afternoon.

"Mr. Raisi, you can slander me as much you wish".

His campaign issued an economic policy statement that criticized cash giveaways as unfeasible, while casting himself as a pragmatist focused on "achievable goals", such as controlling inflation and increasing economic production.

"On the other, peoples of the region will be seeing admiringly and enviously one more time the grandeur and freedom of people in an Islamic system with religious democracy". To cheers from the crowd, he promised a further easing of social restrictions. Rouhani, a 68-year-old cleric, has tried to frame the election as a choice between greater civil liberties and "extremism", and unofficial polls still put him ahead.

But some say that Rafsanjani was merely using the reformists in his power struggle with Khamenei. "We want it to happen".

Conservative Mostafa Mirsalim and reformist Mostafa Hashemitaba are still in the race, though they are not expected to win more than a few percent of the vote. "Trump in the White House and a hard-line president here in Tehran - then, bang!"

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