RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Author)
Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri has dropped out of the presidential race and thrown his support behind incumbent Hassan Rohani, who is seeking a second term in the May 19 vote.
Jahangiri, a reformist politician, was believed to have joined the race to boost Rohani's chances of reelection and defend the government's policies in televised debates.
"I feel I have done my duty. I will vote alongside all of you for Rohani," Jahangiri was quoted as saying by the hard-line Tasnim news agency to his supporters in Fars Province.
He signed up to run amid rumors that Rohani might be disqualified by the hard-line Guardians Council that is tasked with vetting election candidates.
Rohani's main rival is hard-line cleric Ebrahim Raisi, who has accused the president of favoring the rich.
On May 16, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf dropped out of the election to back Raisi, believed to be a favorite of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Qalibaf had been running for president for the third time after being defeated in the 2005 and 2013 votes.
Two other candidates, conservative Mostafa Mirsalim, a former culture minister, and centrist Mostafa Hashemitaba, a former head of the Iranian National Olympic Committee, remain in the race, with Hashemitaba saying that he will vote for Rohani.
Both Qalibaf and Raisi have said that Rohani has failed to translate a 2015 deal with global powers, which restricted Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions, into a better life for Iranians.
Both have promised to create millions of jobs if elected and increase cash handouts to the poorer segments of society.
In the past few days, Rohani has received key endorsements from reformist former President Mohammad Khatami and opposition cleric Mehdi Karrubi, who has been under house arrest since 2011.
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