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Reformist Faces Ultraconservative As Iran Votes For President

In a contest between reformist Masoud Pezeshkian and ultraconservative Saeed Jalili, the election comes amid heightened regional tensions over the Gaza war, Iran's nuclear standoff with the West and widespread economic discontent exacerbated by sanctions || Photo: Collected

In a contest between reformist Masoud Pezeshkian and ultraconservative Saeed Jalili, the election comes amid heightened regional tensions over the Gaza war, Iran's nuclear standoff with the West and widespread economic discontent exacerbated by sanctions || Photo: Collected

Iranians voted on Friday in a presidential runoff election where the choice is between a reformist advocating improved ties with the West and an ultraconservative former nuclear negotiator.

The election, called early after the death of ultraconservative president Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash, follows a first round marked by a historically low voter turnout last week.

In a contest between reformist Masoud Pezeshkian and ultraconservative Saeed Jalili, the election comes amid heightened regional tensions over the Gaza war, Iran's nuclear standoff with the West and widespread economic discontent exacerbated by sanctions.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say in all state matters in the Islamic republic, cast his ballot when polling opened in the morning.

"I heard that the enthusiasm and interest of the people is more than before, praise to God that it will be like this, and if it is like this, it will be gratifying," he said.

State television showed voters queing outside polling stations in Saveh in central Iran and Kerman in the south, while AFP correspondents said voting venues appeared less busy in Tehran.

In last week's first round, Pezeshkian, who was the only reformist permitted to stand, won the largest number of votes, around 42 percent, while Jalili came second with 39 percent, according to figures from Iran's elections authority.

Only 40 percent of Iran's 61 million eligible voters took part -- the lowest turnout in any presidential election since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Khamenei called for a higher turnout in the runoff, emphasising the importance of the election.

He said the first round's participation rate was lower than expected, but added that it was not an act "against the system"._AFP

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