Iran extends presidential voting by another two hours

Iran extends presidential voting by another two hours

Fifty-six million Iranians are eligible to vote in the election, which is being seen as a referendum on incumbent Hassan Rowhani's battle to keep the country on a reformist course.

Iran's Press TV reported that among the first to cast their votes was the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei. "The fate of the country is in the hands of people", he said.

The interior ministry earlier said that the voting time was extended by five hours until Friday midnight owing to the high turnout.

Ahmadi says the Interior Ministry hopes to have final results later Saturday.

After casting his ballot, Rouhani said whomever the voters elect as president should receive all of the nation's support.

In the last election, Rouhani won more than three times as many votes as his closest challenger.

The nuclear agreement Mr Rouhani's government reached with global powers in 2015, under which most worldwide sanctions have been lifted in return for Iran curbing its nuclear programme, is now likely to remain safe.

Rouhani has history on his side in the election.

Raisi is a critic of the nuclear deal and has campaigned to fight inequality and corruption. "They should heed the importance of this task", he said.

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"One wrong decision by the president can mean war", he said at his own Mashhad rally.

He also hailed the elections as the sign of democracy in Iran. US President Donald Trump has previously said that he would "rip up" the nuclear deal.

He gained a reprieve this week when Washington agreed to continue waiving nuclear-related sanctions, keeping the deal on track for now.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Trump arrived in Saudi Arabia Saturday morning, for a visit with the country's royal leaders.

But it was the economy that dominated much of the campaign.

Rouhani has brought inflation down from around 40 percent when he took office in 2013, but prices are still rising by nine percent a year.

But economic growth hasn't happened as quickly as expected, and many Iranian's aren't experiencing any change; unemployment remains high at 12.5 percent overall, with youth unemployment around 30 percent.

Raisi, a former member of the so-called death commissions involved in the summary executions of thousands of political prisoners in the 1980s, has echoed Khamenei's and other hard-liners' calls for self-sufficiency to improve the economy, and he has alleged that Rohani has significantly worsened inequalities in Iranian society.

"[Raisi] is thinking about the people, simple people; he's thinking about poor people", one of his supporters said. Iran is one of the top oil-producing countries in the world; the Central Intelligence Agency ranked it at No. 7 in 2015.

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