If no candidate wins a clear majority, a runoff will be held. Should Rouhani win with a clear majority in the first round of voting, it would deal a surprising blow to conservatives who have dominated Iranian politics for the past eight years.
A push by authorities for widespread participation in the election appeared to have been successful, as a steady flow of voters at polling stations prompted officials to extend voting hours four times, from the customary 6 p.m. ending time to 11 p.m.
With temperatures reaching 95 degrees, many Iranians waited until after sundown to cast their ballots. If people had arrived at the polls by 11 p.m., they were being allowed to vote.
An experienced polling officer at a voting station in central Tehran said that it was unlikely results would come until Saturday morning and that even then, a runoff was likely. There are no exit polls in Iran, and the results will not be announced until all votes have been counted.
Four years after contested ballot results that led to months of unrest here, authorities went to great lengths to minimize public campaign events. But they still urged all Iranians to come out to vote, and citizens of the Islamic republic appeared to be doing so.
Iranian state television ran uninterrupted election coverage throughout the day, showing live feeds of long lines at polling stations across the country and interviewing voters.
One young man who was interviewed, Reza Malek Hagghighapour, held up his Iranian identity card, issued by the Iranian
interests section of the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. “My
father is Iranian and my mother
is American,” he said. “I came to Iran specifically to vote in this election, because I consider myself Iranian.”
Others with long involvement in the Islamic republic’s tumultuous political history also came out to cast their votes.
“The democratic process is a long road. Every bit will count,” said Ebrahim Yazdi, 82, a former foreign minister and leading activist who stood in line at the Hosseinieh Ershad mosque in central Tehran to cast a ballot. “We have to take the opportunities to advance the democratic process, and voting is one major part of that.”
Yazdi, who has been arrested twice since the 2009 protests, said he was told by authorities not to publicly endorse or oppose any candidate. He said he considers voting his solemn responsibility. “Always, I am hopeful,” he said.
After some leading reformists were barred from running and other candidates dropped out, Iranians were choosing from among six presidential contenders. They are nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, widely seen as the most hard-line ideologically; Rouhani, a cleric and relative moderate who pledged to create a new Ministry of Women if elected; Ghalibaf; former foreign minister Ali Akbar Velayati; Mohsen Rezaei, longtime commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps; and Mohammad Gharazi, a former head of the Ministry of Post, Telegraph and Communications.