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AKIPRESS.COM - Iranians voted Friday in the country's first presidential election since its nuclear deal with world powers, as incumbent Hassan Rouhani faced a staunch challenge from a hard-line opponent over his outreach to the West, Bloomberg reported.
The election is largely viewed as a referendum on the 68-year-old cleric's more moderate policies, which paved the way for the nuclear accord despite opposition from hard-liners.
Economic issues also will be on the minds of Iran's over 56 million eligible voters as they head to more than 63,000 polling places across the country. The average Iranian has yet to see the benefits of the deal, which saw Iran limit its contested nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of some sanctions.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most powerful man in Iran, symbolically cast the election's first vote and called on Iranians to turn out in huge numbers for the poll.
"Elections are very important and the fate of the country is in the hands of all people," he said.
Rouhani has history on his side in the election. No incumbent president has failed to win re-election since 1981, when Khamenei became president himself. That doesn't mean it will be easy, however. Rouhani faces three challengers, the strongest among them hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi, 56.
Mostafa Hashemitaba, a pro-reform figure who previously ran for president in 2001, and Mostafa Mirsalim, a former culture minister, also remain in the race.
Iranians overseas also will vote in over 300 locations, including 55 in the U.S., where more than 1 million Iranians live.