Although the agreement lifted international sanctions, the US continues to impose unilateral measures that have scared off investors. Washington cites Iran’s missile programme, its human rights record and support for terrorism.
Some experts say Iranian establishment figures may want to keep Rouhani in power to avoid being cast back into isolation.
“With the deal in jeopardy, the system will be in vital need of Rouhani’s team of smiling diplomats and economic technocrats to shift the blame to the US and keep Iran’s economy afloat,” said Iran analyst Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group.
Who is going to win?
“Raisi has a good chance to win. But still the result depends on the leader Khamenei’s decision,” said a former senior official, who declined to be identified.
So far in public Khamenei has called only for a high turnout, saying Iran’s enemies have sought to use the elections to “infiltrate” its power structure, and a high turnout would prove the system’s legitimacy.
A high turnout could also boost the chances of Rouhani, who was swept to power in 2013 on promises to reduce Iran’s international isolation and grant more freedoms at home. The biggest threat to his re-election is apathy from disappointed voters who feel he did not deliver improvements they hoped for.
“The result depends on whether the economic problems will prevail over freedom issues,” said an official close to Rouhani. “A low turnout can harm Rouhani.”