First female candidates vie for Iranian presidency

Rouhani won the 2013 elections by a landslide and was credited for engineering a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major world powers through which the country agreed to contain its nuclear activities.

"Despite all the efforts of previous governments, the situation of the country is such that people ask why is there so much unemployment?" he said, adding that he would announce detailed economic plans at a later date. In 2013, it prevented ex-President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from running.

Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gives an interview to The Associated Press at his office, in Tehran, Iran, Saturday, April 15, 2017.

Rouhani's defended the policy of 'strengthening the defensive prowess of Iran's Armed Forces'. The vote is being cast as a referendum on the historic nuclear deal.

Since Tuesday, when Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli announced registration of candidates for Iran's 12th presidential race, 1,045 hopefuls from different strata of society have registered for the competitions in the Islamic republic.

The May 19 polls are widely seen as a referendum on the landmark 2015 nuclear deal for the Islamic republic to curb its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of crippling global sanctions, and are expected to be a battle between reformists and hardliners.

The 56-year-old judge, who now runs the powerful charity-cum-business-empire Astan Qods Razavi, has emphasised his concern for the poor and is seen as a close ally of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. For voters, the economy matters.

Another potentially strong candidate for the presidency is former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In relevant remarks in February, Lieutenant Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Brigadier General Hossein Salami underlined that the United States pressures can not debilitate Iran's determination and will to progress. He is also a member of Assembly of Experts, an all-cleric body that will rule on the successor for the Supreme Leader.

Also in the same month, Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani underlined his country's continued progress and advancement in its defense and missile program, saying that the country is strongly opposed to foreign interference.

Within Iran's complex mix of clerical rulers and elected officials, Khamenei has the final say on all state matters. Iran does not allow worldwide observers to monitor its elections. "Iran is a powerful country and people like Mr. (Donald) Trump or the United States administration can not hurt Iran", said Ahmadinejad in his northern Tehran office on Saturday.

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