Khamenei set to tighten grip in Iran vote as frustrations grow

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Dubai

Iranians elect a new president on Friday in a race dominated by hardline candidates close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, with popular anger over economic hardship and curbs on freedoms set to keep many pro-reform Iranians at home.

The front-runner in a carefully vetted field is Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline judge seen by analysts and insiders as representing the security establishment at its most fearsome.

But the authorities’ hopes for a high turnout and a boost to their legitimacy may be disappointed, as official polls suggest only about 40% of over 59 million eligible Iranians will vote.

Critics of the government attribute that prospect to anger over an economy devastated by U.S. sanctions and a lack of voter choice, after a hardline election body barred heavyweight moderate and conservative candidates from standing.

The race to succeed President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist, will be between five hardliners who embrace Khamenei’s strongly anti-Western world view, including Raisi and former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, and two low-key moderates.—Agencies

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