Voters will choose a replacement for the controversial outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, amid crushing U.S. sanctions.
Iranians are voting in the first presidential election since the hotly disputed poll of 2009, which saw current President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad controversially returned to power.
The polling stations opened their doors at8:30 AM local time on Friday and are set to close ten hours later, although voting can be extended until midnight. There are over 50 million eligible voters in Iran.
Voters have six candidates to choose from, after two of the eight approved to compete by national election overseers dropped out of the race—leaving many voters conflicted over whether they should participate at all.
Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was barred from running, angering many—although Rafsanjani has put out a formal call to voters to avoid a boycott on his behalf.
Former nuclear negotiator Hasan Rowhani, the only moderate left in the race, is expected to put in a good showing and has been endorsed by two former presidents, both Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami.
He will be challenged by conservatives Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili and former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati, none of whom are expected to give much resistance to Iran’s supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Sanctions are putting serious pressure on the Iranian economy and both unemployment and inflation are rife, meaning that economic issues will figure big in this election.
Many voters remember the bloody government response to the 2009 “Green Movement” following Ahmadinejad’s disputed re-election, which saw many protesters and dissenters jailed.
Khamenei asked his people to turn out in large numbers to vote in the election but kept mum about his own preference—including on his Twitter account.
I also voted for one of these gentlemen in this election but no one is aware of my vote even my close friends & relatives #IranElection
— khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) June 14, 2013
This article originally was published at Global Post.