Iranian voters turned out in larger numbers on Friday to choose a new president despite a limited choice of one relative moderate and three main hardline conservatives, with long queues forming outside polling stations.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged Iranians to participate in force in the vote, damning US officials who criticised the fairness of the election.
Reuters journalists were not granted visas to cover the vote but witnesses who visited several polling stations in the capital Tehran early in the day said there were more people waiting to vote than at the previous election in 2009.
Interior minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar told state Press TV there had been a large turnout across the country in response to the leader’s call.
“They want to stand against the enemy,” he said. Israel, the US and their allies, who accuse Tehran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons, top Iran’s list of foes. The interior ministry extended voting time by several hours, Press TV said, due to the large number of voters waiting outside polling stations.
Iranian analysts said a big turnout could benefit the sole moderate conservative candidate Hassan Rohani, since some of his natural supporters in the urban middle class had been toying with abstention.
Rohani’s call to rehabilitate Iran’s foreign relations and enact a “civil rights charter” has resounded with many Iranians eager for change.