Two Hard Line Candidates Withdraw from Iran’s Presidential Race

(Bloomberg) -- Two of the most conservative candidates in Iran’s presidential election have stepped aside, leaving four men, including the poll’s sole reformist option, contesting Friday’s vote.

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Alireza Zakani, the mayor of Tehran, announced his withdrawal on Thursday, citing his desire to strengthen the chances of two hard liners on the ballot — Saeed Jalili and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf — according to the semi-official Iranian Students’ News Agency.

Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, head of Iran’s main veterans-affairs organization, also announced he was leaving the race for similar reasons late on Wednesday.

Polling stations across Iran are scheduled to open at 8:00 a.m. local time on Friday and results are expected on Saturday or Sunday. If no candidate gets more than 50% of votes a runoff will be held on July 5.

The reduction in the candidates may increase the chances of a winner emerging in the first round.

It’s not unusual for low-polling candidates to drop out ahead of Iranian elections. The latest opinion polls in Iran, all published by state-run polling agencies, show reformist Masoud Pezeshkian leading the race.

They suggest Jalili is among the strongest of the hard liners.

The election’s being held to replace Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash last month.

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