High voter turnout in unexpectedly tight Iran presidential election
By Chen Xuanlan

2017-05-20 09:22 GMT+8

Vote counting is underway after Iranians cast their ballots to decide the country's next president. Incumbent President Hassan Rouhani faces stiff competition from hard-line cleric and former prosecutor, Ebrahim Raisi.

Polling stations opened Friday morning across Iran, with long queues - some even going for blocks. CGTN correspondent Tony Cheng says the election is seen as a crucial indicator of whether Iran will continue to open up to the West or pull back.

Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, cast his vote early. He has indicated a preference for the main challenger in the presidential race. But Iran's senior clerics are getting old, and may not carry the influence they once did.

In the offices of the Tehran Times, reports were coming in from the rest of the country that voter turnout was high. Before the vote, it was said that the greatest challenge facing the incumbent president was low voter turnout - with many young people disillusioned by the economy. 

But packed polling stations show that Iranians have decided if they want change, they have to come out and vote.