Iran flag (file photo) Photograph:( Reuters )
The vote Friday will choose a successor to Iran's moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who cannot run again now after serving two consecutive four-year terms
On the eve of Iran's presidential election, the candidate-vetting Guardian Council insisted that the political contest was "serious". The elections are expected to hand victory to ultraconservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi.
"The media and the people have testified that this is a good competition," said the head of the 12-member council, Abbas Ali Kadkhodaee, a day before almost 60 million voters are asked to head to the ballots.
Kadkhodaee said that the televised debates between the seven candidates showed that the competition was serious.
The candidates were approved by the unelected body of jurists and clerics.
The vote Friday will choose a successor to Iran's moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who cannot run again now after serving two consecutive four-year terms, and who leaves office in August.
Turnout for the voting is expected to be low owing to demoralised electorate which faced years of economic crisis brought on by crippling US sanctions regime and worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic
"I left my main job because I could not pay the rent for my shop, and my (former) employees are now jobless," lamented Tehran resident Nasrollah, who said he had been a car mechanic for 47 years.
"I have no money. All families are now facing an economic problem. How can we vote for these people who did this to us? It's not right."
'No political views'
The election comes as Tehran holds renewed talks with world powers to revive a battered 2015 nuclear deal, which the United States unilaterally withdrew from three years ago under then president Donald Trump.
Ultimate power in Iran lies with the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but the president has significant influence on issues from industrial policy to foreign affairs.
Many voters were dismayed however when a field of almost 600 hopefuls for the presidency was reduced to just seven candidates by the Guardian Council.
Among the prominent figures barred from running were former parliament speaker Ali Larijani, who demanded that the council "officially and publicly disclose all the reasons" for his disqualification.
Rouhani later said he had urged greater "competition" in a letter to the supreme leader, who acknowledged that some candidates had been treated "unjustly" as "they and their families were accused of false things", without giving names.
The field was further reduced Wednesday when three of the seven candidates dropped out, shortly before the election campaign ended at 7:00 am (0230 GMT) Thursday.
(With inputs from agencies)