Iranians went to the polls Friday in their first presidential election since the landmark 2015 nuclear agreement, with early signs suggesting enthusiastic support for incumbent President Hassan Rouhani.
The presidential election has seen a face-off between moderate Rouhani and the hardliner, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei-backed Ebrahim Raisi. "Regional nations have pinned their eyes, with praise and envy, on people's turnout in the Friday election to once again witness the grandeur of the Iranian nation, the freedom of the Islamic establishment and the religious democracy", he said on Friday after casting his vote.
"Rouhani has turned our foreign policies into a mess and damaged our religion", said Sedigheh Davoodabadi, a 59-year-old housewife in Iran's holy city of Qom who voted for Raisi.
Hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi has 10.1 million votes.
Iran's interior minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli has said the results of the country's upcoming presidential election will be announced all at once on Friday, and not at different stages.
"I waited in the line for five hours to cast my vote."Many pro-reform voters are still lukewarm Rouhani supporters, disappointed with his failure to make broader changes during his first term".
Election officials have twice extended the voting deadline beyond the anticipated 6 p.m. closing time to accommodate the large numbers of voters.
Raisi, a former judicial official and prosecutor, sought to drum up support among poorer voters, dissatisfied with the government's failure to revitalize the economy despite the partial lifting of western sanctions.
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The election is important "for Iran's future role in the region and the world", Rouhani said after voting.
Rouhani has vowed to work towards removing the remaining non-nuclear sanctions, but critics argue that will be hard with Donald Trump as USA president - Trump has repeatedly described it as "one of the worst deals ever signed", although his administration re-authorised waivers from sanctions this week.
People from 102 countries including Pakistan, India, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, China, Iraq, Turkey and Afghanistan casted their votes to elect new Iranian president.
Iranians overseas also will vote in over 300 locations, including 55 in the US, where more than 1 million Iranians live.
Deadly riots broke out in June 2009 following a contested election that helped the then incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to remain in office despite wide protests across the country which were eventually quelled.
The nuclear deal has been controversial in both the United States and Iran and debates in Iran have focused on this issue.
If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of votes cast, the top two candidates will compete in a run-off election on May 26.
Two other conservative candidates are still officially in the race.