Iran election: Hardliner Qalibaf withdraws candidacy

The coalition between the two conservative nominees will benefit the country's economy in a post-election era, if Raeisi manages to assume power through the election.

Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf dropped out of Iran's presidential race on Monday and said he would back hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi's bid to unseat President Hassan Rouhani in Friday's vote.

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region- Iran's presidential frontrunners, conservative Ebrahim Raisi and his moderate opponent Hasan Rouhani have held rival rallies in Kurdish inhabited regions of the country on Sunday less than five days before the elections on May 19.

His close association with the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei would attract the support of conservatives across Iran.

"I ask all my supporters to contribute their full capacity and support for the success of my brother, Ebrahim Raisi", Qalibaf said in a statement announcing his withdrawal, according to the state TV.

In the last election four years ago, Qalibaf finished second but with just 16.5 percent of the vote.

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The other remaining candidates are Vice-President Eshagh Jahangiri, who supports Rouhani and is thought to have simply entered the contest to shield him from attacks, fellow reformer Mostafa Hashemi-Taba, a former industry minister, and Mostafa Mirsalim, a conservative and former culture minister. It was Khamenei who previous year appointed Raisi, 56, to manage the Astan Quds Razavi, an Islamic charity that controls assets worth billions of dollars, as well as the Imam Reza shrine in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad.

That's exactly the kind of voter Rouhani needs to inspire.

The immediate result of the rising tension now between the USA and Iran is that it undermines Iranian moderates, including Rouhani's government, which put all their political capital in the deal in the lead up to this month's election.

The two candidates were the top conservative challengers to President Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist whose government negotiated a 2015 deal with world powers to rein in Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting worldwide sanctions.

During the previous polls in June 2013, President Rouhani garnered 50.7 percent of a total of over 36 million votes. During his presidential campaign, the United States leader repeatedly called the accord with Iran "the worst deal ever", and Vice President Mike Pence threatened to rip it up. Qalibaf's support could help stoke interest in Raisi, who has been described as unknown and severely lacking in charisma. Both snubbed Rouhani, who himself is a cleric. "We believe that the Palestinian resistance is ongoing and the Palestinian people will not stop fighting for the realization of their dreams and ideals", he said.

Influential reformist activist Mostafa Tajzadeh, who spent years in prison after opposing Ahmadinejad's contested 2009 re-election, worries promises of cash will sway the poor and unemployed.

  • Megan Austin