Iran elections: With Rouhani out, Ahmadinejad a strong contender

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Rouhani once stood in against Mohammad Reza Aref

Iran’s outgoing president Hassan Rouhani has cast his vote in the presidential election on Tuesday.

The leader’s fourth and final term in office ends next month.

Born in 1951 in Taftanaz, south-eastern Iran, he studied law in England but never returned.

He is now widely expected to run for president again in 2021.

How have the first three years of Rouhani’s presidency fared?

The nuclear deal that Rouhani helped broker was successful in reaching an accord with world powers over Iran’s nuclear programme.

However, his rise to power came at a time when the economic situation in Iran was considerably worse than during his previous two terms as president from 1997 to 2005.

Wages were cut and the currency was devalued.

During Rouhani’s first term, his first five-year plan included an ambitious investment in education and healthcare, and he created a $43bn (£32bn) investment fund to finance infrastructure projects.

However, his economic programme has come in for fierce criticism for being largely ineffective.

Tellingly, the BBC’s Deputy Chief Correspondent Jon Leyne told Persian language channel Press TV that Rouhani’s first year in office was “dominated by bad news, by bad economic news”.

Iranian parliament voted that there should be no improvement in domestic or external conditions between the time Rouhani took office and June 2021.

Rouhani did not elaborate on his vision for his next term.

How has he been involved in Iran’s politics?

Rouhani was born into an impoverished farming family but he rose to prominence as a high-profile lawyer under the Islamic Republic.

He also served as Iran’s culture minister and foreign minister in the clerical government, and became vice-president for economic affairs in the 1990s.

In 2013, he defeated conservative candidates in elections for the Assembly of Experts, a powerful body of 165 clerics.

Rouhani, who ran as an opponent of powerful factions on the conservative side, also won the first round of the presidential election with 50.7% of the vote.

He is renowned for his populist style and honesty.

How important is the elections?

Rouhani is widely expected to face off against former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was president from 2005 to 2013.

Rouhani’s supporters say the vote may shape the political landscape, as the emergence of moderate and reformist voters helps the president to hold onto his core of support.

One of Rouhani’s top political foes, former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is running for the first time since 2013.

Rouhani, 66, will be casting his vote at the polling station close to the president’s house. He typically enjoys huge popularity in Iran’s urban and more affluent areas, where much of the population lives.

Clerics on the conservative side, especially those from northern Iran, will reportedly vote in their rural areas.

How have the rallies been?

Thousands of people have gathered in central Tehran in recent days to support Rouhani as part of an opposition to eight years of economic hardship.

Rouhani’s supporters say they are determined to bring relief to the daily struggle to buy basic goods, including medicine.

Rouhani has joined the crowds, along with thousands of supporters.

Iran has been suffering acute economic hardship under his presidency

Was Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ever a challenger?

Ahmadinejad was President between 2005 and 2013

Ahmadinejad, a controversial figure even within the conservative opposition, was succeeded by Hassan Rouhani when he moved into a ceremonial role.

Rouhani, the incumbent president, upset Ahmadinejad at the end of the 2013 presidential election by winning 51.7% of the vote, according to official results.

The two clashed repeatedly over policy, with Ahmadinejad accusing Rouhani of exaggerating the effects of sanctions.

Rouhani stood with no specific party affiliation, while Ahmadinejad could command loyalty from a number of conservative parties.

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