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Iran’s Presidential Election Dynamics Shift as Hardline Candidates Withdraw

Iran Presidential Elections

Two hardline candidates withdrew from Iran’s presidential election on Thursday, just a day before the pivotal vote, urging unity among supporters of the country’s Islamic revolution, according to state media reports.

Tehran’s mayor Alireza Zakani and the head of the Martyrs’ Foundation Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi exited the race, state media confirmed. A recent poll by the Iran Students Polling Centre had projected Zakani to secure approximately 1.7% of the vote, with Ghazizadeh-Hashemi expected to garner around 2%.

Their withdrawal leaves four remaining presidential candidates. Zakani publicly urged the two leading hardline candidates, Saeed Jalili and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, to unite forces to block moderate candidate Masoud Pezeshkian from winning.

“I call upon Saeed Jalili and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf to unite and address the demands of the revolutionary forces,” Zakani wrote in a statement.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, aged 85, has ensured that candidates sharing his hardline views dominate the presidential race. The president of Iran traditionally plays a crucial role in the selection process for the supreme leader.

The upcoming election occurs amidst heightened tensions with Israel following the Gaza conflict, increased Western pressure on Tehran regarding its nuclear program, and mounting internal dissent over political, social, and economic challenges.

Pezeshkian, a former health minister, enjoys the backing of Iran’s sidelined reformist faction, which advocates for improved relations with the West. However, his prospects remain uncertain amid calls for an election boycott from dissidents both within and outside Iran.

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