This allows him to steer the regime in unexpected directions, such as with Rouhani's landmark nuclear deal.
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, another Iranian cleric and moderate politician, was elected president of Iran by an overwhelming margin shortly thereafter and was in the office from 1989 to 1997. While the lifting of nuclear-related sanctions has alleviated pressure on Iran's struggling economy, many European firms remain fearful of investing in Iran due to the remaining USA sanctions, some of which threaten to punish third parties that violate them. With Ghalibaf no longer on the ballot, Friday's election will likely be largely a duel between Rowhani and Raisi.
"In the absence of large banking firms, the deals can't happen", said Farid Dehdilani, of the Iranian Privatisation Organisation.
Rouhani won a commanding victory, taking more than 50 percent of the vote in the June 14 election.
But Raisi has attacked the Rouhani government for his "weak" stance during negotiations and for having failed to cash in on the deal.
He was a fierce critic of conservative former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who ushered in a new era of confrontation with the West, particularly over Iran's nuclear programme.
However, Raisi's candidacy also has revived the controversy surrounding Iran's mass execution of thousands of prisoners in 1988, one of the darkest moments of the country's history since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and one still not acknowledged by its authorities. He arrested Iranian intellectuals and enforced moral policing, often by brutal means. Rouhani's supporters used Telegram to bypass the country's censorship, because Iran's media has been banned for over two years from publishing the name or images of Khatami himself.
Of course, one must always consider the Trump factor.
"The gains Rouhani won through the nuclear deal with P5+1 and the UN removal of sanctions, are blunted by new USA sanctions in relation to Iran's ballistic tests and support for Hezbollah, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States", he said. Iranians, who in the last few years put all their hopes for a better economic situation on the nuclear deal, are now facing an escalating rhetoric from the new United States administration.
In the public's eye, Rouhani clearly outshines other candidates as de facto guardian of the global agreement and relations with the West.
Politically speaking, Rouhani, as a moderate, is best poised to win a sizable coalition compared to the conservatives Raisi and Ghalibaf.
"There's nothing that....brings out young, liberal voters like a hard-line conservative, which Raisi is", Kupchan said. Further splitting the hard-liners, Rouhani's clerical credentials could help win over some conservative-leaning voters.
Jahangiri meantime called on the Iranian nation to massively participate in the 12th presidential election due to be held on Friday.
To be sure, anything can happen on or before May 19.
The hardliners' message may be contradictory, but their labeling Rouhani and his supporters as elitists, combined with their campaign pledges to provide new monthly unemployment benefits and a public works program to generate jobs for the mostazafin (downtrodden) means the incumbent's re-election isn't certain. The incident was covered on Iranian television and could have had some impact in Rouhani's support.
His second term, which ended in August 2013, was featured with a confrontation with the Khamenei and the parliament. But there is even more at stake. "If the Iranian people allow it, if the supreme leader supports and guides it, with Dr. Zarif the rest of the sanctions can be removed".
It is extremely important in this situation that Ebrahim Raisi is de facto the successor of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the supreme leader of Iran.