The Iranians are preparing for presidential elections that will take place on Friday, and can have serious consequences for the country's future and its relations with the West.
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate priest (for Iranian standards), wants to go for a second term, but he has rivals, of rigid conservative candidates. The President and Parliament of Iran are democratically elected, but the leadership of the country is the Supreme leader who has final say on all matters of foreign and domestic policy.
The Supreme leader - currently an ultraconservative priest named Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - helps to appoint a guardian Council, an unelected conservative group that decides who will run for President. Many popular candidates reformists were barred from participating in recent elections.
The President has significant leeway to pursue a policy inside the country and abroad, appointing thousands of officials in the country and creating a significant base of power. This allows him to control in unexpected directions, for example, a deal on Iran's nuclear program. However, all must be approved by the Supreme leader.
Rouhani was a key player in the deal of 2015 with us and world powers to curtail Iran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions and watched the period of normalization of relations with the West. Rouhani victory would have meant that Iran can continue to move forward, and the nuclear deal will be relatively continuous.
The victory of the hardliners could pose a significant threat to the continuation of the nuclear deal. The conservative camp in Iran, supported by Khamenei, was a vocal critic of the deal. They also criticized Rouhani for what he has pandered to the West that means victory over hardliner will mean shifting diplomatic gear and a possible increase in tensions with the international community.
The first round will take place on Friday, but if none of the candidates receives more than 50% of the votes, may 26 will be held the second round. In the race this year 5 candidates, but only two are regarded as viable contenders: incumbent moderate Hassan Rouhani and the hard conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi.
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