JEDDAH: Former President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday urged Iranians to vote for the only “reformist” candidate in Friday’s snap presidential election to replace the late Ebrahim Raisi.

Masoud Pezeshkian could “remove the shadow of sanctions” that have battered the Iranian economy, Rouhani said, praising Pezeshkian’s “honesty and loyalty.”

Other leading “reformist” figures such as former President Mohammad Khatami and former Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif have also endorsed Pezeshkian’s candidacy. The vote on Friday was an opportunity for change, Khatami said

This combination created on June 18, 2024 of handout pictures provided by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) shows Presidential candidates (clockwise) Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, Alireza Zakani, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, Masoud Pezeshkian, Saeed Jalili, and Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi during a debate at the Iran State television studio in Tehran on June 17, 2024. (IRIB/AFP)

Pezeshkian, 69, a heart surgeon, has represented the northwestern city of Tabriz in parliament since 2008. He is one of three front runners in the election, along with hard-line parliamentary Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and ultraconservative former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

But analysts say his candidacy has been allowed to proceed only in an effort to increase voter turnout, which authorities fear may be embarrassingly low, and he will be defeated by a more traditional hard-line candidate.

The others in the running are Tehran Mayor Alireza Zakani, cleric Mostafa Pourmohammadi, and Vice President Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi, head of the Martyrs’ Foundation.

Iran set a snap presidential election on June 28 following the sudden death of President Ebrahim Raisi, who died in a helicopter crash on May 19, 2024.

Raisi succeeded Hassan Rouhani, who served as the seventh president of Iran from 2013 to 2021.