Iran’s leader urges high turnout in vote to send message to US, Israel
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Iran’s leader urges high turnout in vote to send message to US, Israel

Khamenei says Friday’s presidential election must show up US and ‘pathetic prime minister of the Zionist regime’

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses a group of teachers in Tehran, Iran, on May 2, 2016. (Official website of the Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP/File)
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses a group of teachers in Tehran, Iran, on May 2, 2016. (Official website of the Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP/File)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s top leader has called for high turnout in Friday’s presidential election, urging voters to send a message to the United States.

In a televised speech Wednesday, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the United States and its allies, including the “pathetic prime minister of the Zionist regime,” or Israel, are closely watching the vote.

He called the election a “great popular epic,” saying that while the region is “drowned in anxiety,” Iran is “peacefully and safely holding an election.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, seen as a relative moderate, is seeking re-election in a vote that will largely serve as a referendum on his outreach to the West, which culminated in the 2015 nuclear deal.

Iranian President and candidate in the upcoming presidential elections Hassan Rouhani gestures during a campaign rally in the northwestern city of Ardabil on May 17, 2017. (AFP Photo/Behrouz Mehri)
Iranian President and candidate in the upcoming presidential elections Hassan Rouhani gestures during a campaign rally in the northwestern city of Ardabil on May 17, 2017. (AFP Photo/Behrouz Mehri)

Khamenei, who will remain Iran’s top decision-maker, is deeply suspicious of the United States. He is believed to favor Rouhani’s main challenger, the hard-line candidate Ebrahim Raisi.

Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said turnout is expected to exceed 70 percent. Some 56.4 million people out of a population of 80 million are eligible to vote.

Iranian presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi addresses his supporters during a campaign rally at Imam Khomeini Mosque in the capital Tehran on May 16, 2017. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)
Iranian presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi addresses his supporters during a campaign rally at Imam Khomeini Mosque in the capital Tehran on May 16, 2017. (AFP Photo/Atta Kenare)

Fazli said the vote counting would commence after midnight and that the results would be announced “sooner” than in previous elections. In past elections, the results have been announced two days later, on Sunday.

Rouhani won the 2013 presidential election with nearly 51 percent of the vote. Turnout for that election was 73 percent.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press

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