Iran's VP withdraws from presidential race, backs Rouhani

Iranian First Vice-President and one of the country's presidential candidates on Tuesday withdrew his candidacy in favor of incumbent president Hassan Rouhani, Tasnim new agency reported.

He is now seen as the main threat to Mr Rouhani, who is seeking a second term.

"A fundamental and crucial decision must be taken for the unity of the revolutionary front", Ghalibaf wrote in a statement.

"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.

"There's nothing that....brings out young, liberal voters like a hard-line conservative, which Raisi is", Kupchan said.

Having now called on conservative voters to unite behind Raisi, Qalibaf could conceivably upset forecasts that Rouhani was on course for a comfortable victory.

"I am also very thankful", Raisi replied to the crowd.

Raisi faces having to reach out to a wider conservative base in the next few days, Bassiri Tabrizi added, but noted that things are "definitely more hard for Rouhani now".

The Iranian presidential vote is scheduled to be held this Friday.

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He is promising a revival of the values of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and has the backing of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards, the country's top security force, their affiliated volunteer Basij militia, hardline clerics and two influential clerical groups.

"Iran's political right has been scrambling to field a single candidate that could push back against" Rouhani's coalition of technocrats, pragmatists and reformers, Taleblu said.

Meanwhile, Iranian opposition figure Mehdi Karrubi, who has been under house arrest since 2011, has voiced support for Rohani in the vote.

Further, Raisi and Ghalibaf have not proposed a persuasive alternative to the economic plan that Rouhani has linked to the nuclear agreement.

Qalibaf had been running for president for the third time after being defeated in the 2005 and 2013 votes.

Only minutes after the news, posters appeared on conservative media showing the black-turbaned Raisi alongside Qalibaf, wearing a yellow safety helmet. As many as 16.2 percent of the respondents said they had not yet decided whether to vote or not.

Ghalibaf joined Raisi onstage at a rally Tuesday in Tehran and they clasped hands.

He has saved much of his most stinging criticism for Qalibaf, whose withdrawal now means Rouhani's campaign has to adapt for the final few days, said Foad Izadi, a member of the Faculty of World Studies at the University of Tehran who is a critic of the nuclear and Rouhani's foreign policy.

The former prosecutor has promised to build a self-sufficient "resistance economy", create millions of jobs and triple cash hand-outs to the poor.

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