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Tehran mayor Qalibaf quits Iran presidential election race, backs conservative Reisi
20 May 2017, 02:47 | Erica Roy
A reformist candidate dropped out of Iran's presidential election on Tuesday and threw his support behind President Hassan Rouhani, in a widely expected move that will strengthen the incumbent's campaign against a hard-liner.
To boost Rouhani's chances, "Jahangiri now needs to withdraw from the race because he needs all the backing from the reformist camp", said Bassiri Tabrizi at the Royal United Services Institute.
According to local media reports, the decision was made after the central council of the Popular Forces of the Islamic Revolution held a meeting to assess the situation ahead of Friday's election, The Tehran Times reported.
Hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi will gain votes from Qalibaf's endorsement, but it may not be enough to defeat Rouhani.
In the last election in 2013, the former Revolutionary Guards commander and police chief came a distant second to Mr Rouhani with 16.5% of the vote.
Seemingly encouraged by the country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, hardliners have accused incumbent Hassan Rouhani of wanting to import Western decadence and to open up Iran to the destructive power of US business.
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.
Rouhani alluded to this controversy during a campaign rally recently, saying: "The people of Iran will announce in this election that they don't accept those who only knew executions and prison for 38 years".
"And also there are conservatives who support Rouhani", the senior research fellow of the Department of Near and Middle East at the Institute for Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences said. More than 50% of the vote is needed to claim the presidency in the first round.
"It's definitely more hard for Rouhani now", said Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London. Iran agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of some economic sanctions.
Most Iranians have yet to see the benefits of the nuclear deal.
He was a fierce critic of conservative former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who ushered in a new era of confrontation with the West, particularly over Iran's nuclear programme.
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