A man residing in the US shows ink on his finger after casting his vote for the Iran Presidential election on May 19, 2017 at a polling station at Manassas Mosque in Manassas, Virginia. / AFP / Sasan AFSOOSI
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Iranians began voting Friday in a closely-fought presidential contest between pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani and hardline challenger Ebrahim Raisi that could determine the pace of social and economic reform and Iran's re-engagement with the world.State television showed long queues outside polling stations in several cities and said 56 million Iranians out of the more than 80 million population were eligible to voteIn a warning reflecting rising political tensions amid signs of an unexpectedly close race, Rouhani urged Iran's powerful elite Revolutionary Guards, believed to support Raisi, not to meddle in the election.Rouhani hit back in a sharper campaign strategy to mobilize Iranian women and young people who became jaded about the vote after losing hope in his ability to ease religious repression in society as promised in 2013, when he won by a landslide.While the vote may not have a decisive influence on foreign policy, which is set by Khamenei, the election of a hardliner could harm Iran's global image and further deter foreign trade and investment seen as vital to rebuilding the economy.More than a third of Iran's 80 million population is under age 30 and yearns for reform.
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