Tehran's mayor drops out of Iran election to back hard-liner

"I am withdrawing my candidacy for the presidential election in favor of Reisi", Ghalibaf said in a statement.

Ebrahim Raeisi, custodian of Imam Reza (AS) holy shrine, Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, former minister of culture and Islamic guidance Mostafa Mirsalim and former minister of physical education Mostafa Hashemi Taba, as well as President Hassan Rouhani are the six candidates to run for presidency in the forthcoming presidential elections.

"I ask all my popular supporters across the country to use all their potential and support for the success of our respectable brother, Ebrahim Raisi", he said.

In the last election four years ago, Qalibaf finished second but with just 16.5 percent of the vote.

Five candidates remain in the campaign but more may drop out to throw their support behind other candidates. A Raisi victory could alarm investors and set Iran on a more confrontational course with the Trump White House - which has called the nuclear deal a "disaster" - and its Sunni Gulf Arab allies.

Mr Raisi, is now the head of the powerful Imam Reza shrine and charitable foundation in the holy city of Mashhad and, in addition to attracting support from traditional conservatives, is seen as the favoured candidate of the security establishment.

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Rouhani's allies say his rivals oppose deeper change and exposure to worldwide competition in part because of the economic interests of the Guards, which gained control of swathes of Iran's industry during its years of isolation.

An push to boycott the country's upcoming elections is being driven by an online campaign lead by Iranian expatriates who oppose the theocratic regime governing in Tehran.

Also incumbent President Rouhani traveled to Kurdish speaking regions in Lorestan Province east of the the country on Sunday encouraging the voters to turn out at the ballot box on Friday.

KELLY: OK. So we have Rouhani, who as you mentioned is in a more moderate reformist camp in Iran. Some also have speculated that Qalibaf could serve as a vice president in Raisi's administration, in exchange for his support. The elections are seen in part as a test of Iran's economic progress under Rouhani since 2015. The president has noticeably sharpened his tone in recent days, portraying his two main rivals as a continuation of politics under his hardline predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The focus of the final debate was on the economy as the candidates, who are all male, outlined their vision for Iran's future.

Reuters expects Rouhani to be re-elected, due of his support among urban populations and women, who believe there will be a welcome relax on restrictions of social behavior. "It's the Tehran vote that Rouhani has got to get out and Raisi running will help him do that".

  • Sonia Alvarado