08:02 GMT +322 March 2019
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    Two Main Candidates to Watch in Iranian Presidential Election

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    Iran's incumbent President Hassan Rouhani and cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who heads the Astan Quds Razavi autonomous charitable foundation, are the main contenders at the upcoming presidential election, with inflation and unemployment expected to be the key issues on the agenda, political analyst Mani Mehrabi told Sputnik Persian.

    "There are two leading political camps at the moment: supporters of Hassan Rouhani, the current head of the government, and Ebrahim Raisi. Other scenarios are also possible," the analyst said, adding that nothing could be predicted with complete certainty at this point. "For instance, [former Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance] Mostafa Mir-Salim and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf have a chance to take part in the second round of voting since they are quite popular."

    Last month, the Guardian Council of the Constitution approved a list of six candidates who are allowed to take part in the election scheduled to take place on May 19. These also include Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri and former Vice President Mostafa Hashemitaba.

    Rouhani, who has been in office since 2013, is more likely to win the election if there is only one round of voting, the analyst said. However, if no candidate secures more than 50 percent of the vote, opponents of the moderate president could join forces, throwing their support behind the other contender.

    Mani Mehrabi described the upcoming election as a "landmark" event which has grabbed the attention of the entire nation. Iranians "have been deeply engrossed in the election campaign," he said.

    This year economy tops the list of issues that worry Iranians.

    "The main expectation is that burning issues, particularly inflation and unemployment, will be resolved. This year the slogan has been 'Economy of Resistance: Production and Employment.' Economic challenges have taken center stage in Iran since economy has an impact on all areas of our lives. This is why even political issues like the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) hinge on economic concerns," the analyst said.

    Unsurprisingly, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, spoke about the Rouhani government's economic performance at length in his most important speech of the year given in late March. Khamenei lambasted the administration for not doing enough to curb inflation, boost employment, tackle discrimination and promote investment.

    In a message posted on Twitter on April 19, Khamenei described Iran's economic capabilities as "a priority."

    ​Last week, Iran's supreme leader appeared to have downplayed the role of the nuclear deal in making sure that the West does not carry out an offensive operation against the Islamic Republic over its nuclear efforts, something Rouhani considers an achievement.

    "Some say since they took office the shadow of war has been faded away. This is not correct," he said. "It's been people's presence in the political scene that has removed the shadow of war from the country."

    In a comment that seemed to have also been tacitly directed at Rouhani, Khamenei also asked all presidential candidates to promise Iranians that they will not "rely on foreigners" while working on resolving key issues facing the nations.

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    unemployment, inflation, economy, presidential election, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Mani Mehrabi, Ebrahim Raisi, Hassan Rouhani, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran
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