Over 60 electoral 'violations' in run-up to Iran vote: judiciary

A reformist candidate has dropped out of Iran's presidential election to back President Hassan Rouhani in a widely expected move that will strengthen the incumbent's campaign against a hard-liner.

"What is important and vital is to maintain the interests of the people, the country and (the Islamic) Revolution", Qalibaf said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

Rouhani has shown himself powerless to effect any change in the regime's conduct and his only role is to mislead the West into thinking "moderates" are in charge. We are far better off, as we were when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was president, when there are no illusions about Iran's regime and the men who lead it [bold mine-DL].

On Monday, Tehran's conservative Mayor, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, also said that he withdrew from the presidential race to back another conservative candidate, Ebrahim Raisi.

The election is largely viewed as a referendum on the nuclear deal struck with world powers and shepherded by Rouhani's administration.

Iran's relations with the US, which improved under Rouhani and led to the nuclear deal and the lifting of some sanctions, have also hung over the campaigning. Iranians go to the polls on Friday.

Iranian cleric and presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi, center, stands among his supporters, during a campaign rally in Tehran, Iran, April 29, 2017. For someone who served as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for 16 years, Rouhani was well aware of what he was saying: Any negotiations concerning the broad list of USA sanctions on Iran, whether in regard to Iran's missiles program or human rights, will need Khamenei's permission to proceed.

Most Iranians have yet to see the benefits of the nuclear deal. But sensitivity to allegations of fraud has risen since widespread unrest erupted over the disputed outcome of the 2009 presidential election in which dozens of people were killed and hundreds arrested, according to human rights groups.

"The leverage of my power does not possess some things, but some things will be possible with a vote of more than 51 percent", he said during a campaign stop in western Iran.

The main challenger Raisi is a close ally and protege of Khamenei, and was one of four Islamic judges who ordered the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988.

Rumors about Khamenei's health have swirled for years, and Raisi's appointment appeared to signal confidence in the younger cleric and that he was being groomed for Iran's most powerful post. It was the urgency of this political balance, both domestically and internationally, that provided the raison d'être of Mr. Rouhani's victory in 2013.

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