"Iran's political right has been scrambling to field a single candidate that could push back against" Rouhani's coalition of technocrats, pragmatists, and reformers, Taleblu said.
The normally mild-mannered cleric is trying to hold on to office by firing up reformist voters who want less confrontation overseas and more social and economic freedom at home. Jahangiri, a reformist politician, was believed to have joined the race to boost Rohani's chances of reelection and defend the government's policies in televised debates.
Qalibaf's withdrawal gave "strength and momentum to Raisi's campaign" at a time when voter interest is peaking, said Mauriello. Although Iran's supreme leader has to be a grand ayatollah, Khamenei, like Raisi, was a normal cleric when he was appointed. For someone who served as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for 16 years, Rouhani was well aware of what he was saying: Any negotiations concerning the broad list of USA sanctions on Iran, whether in regard to Iran's missiles program or human rights, will need Khamenei's permission to proceed.
But since the nuclear deal came into force in January 2016, lifting some sanctions in exchange for curbs to Iran's atomic programme, only $1-2 billion worth of deals have actually been finalised, his deputy Eshaq Jahangiri admitted to AFP this week.
But Iranians do not exclusively blame Rouhani for the economic situation. (Fifty-one percent hold this view.) Another combined one-third suspect that these economic benefits are being preferentially distributed to Iranians with "special connections" (21 percent) or to pay for Iranian military expenses and the support of foreign allies (15 percent).
Raisi is far from a natural politician.
Iran's political structure is decentralised with several centres of power and influence.
The vice president mentioned investment security, support for domestic production, combating smuggling and stimulating exports as the main requirements of job creation. Rouhani has a platform that includes expanding social and political freedoms, but his achievements in this area are mixed. All candidates must be vetted by a hardline body. The conservatives are represented by the Mayor of Tehran Ghalibaf, former minister of culture and Islamic guidance Mirsalim and the odd candidacy of Raeisi, who is the custodian of the holy shrine of the eighth Shiite imam, but more importantly, touted to be a potential replacement for the now ageing Ayatollah Khamenei himself. He arrested Iranian intellectuals and enforced moral policing, often by brutal means.
Now that the presidential campaign is nearing its end and President Rouhani has received the warm welcome of the Iranian people, "I feel that I have fulfilled my duty and withdraw my candidacy in order to make my utmost to support Rouhani and help him promote his future plans", he added. If Mr. Rouhani were to win a second term, Iran is likely to continue its course of open dialogue with Asia and Europe while signing new economic agreements with new partners who have been on standby since the rollback of sanctions following the nuclear deal.
Indeed, many Iranians question why someone with such a notorious profile would be qualified and running for presidency. The threat of another populist and anti-Western administration in Iran is real and risky, in light of the economic hardship people are now facing.
KELLY: OK. So we have Rouhani, who as you mentioned is in a more moderate reformist camp in Iran. So Raisi might even win legitimately.
And so, the race is between Rouhani and Raisi. "A low turnout can harm Rouhani".