TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iranians voted in huge numbers in fiercely-contested presidential polls on Friday, standing in long lines to choose between incumbent Hassan Rouhani and a serious challenger, Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei described the 2017 elections as very important, saying the destiny of the country is in the hand of the masses.
"I thank God Almighty for the blessing of democracy, election people's participation. This is a great blessing,” the Leader said, casting his ballot here as lengthy queues formed across the country of 80 million.
"I believe a good work should be done in early hours and should not be delayed. I also believe the presidential election is very important," the Leader said.
"The destiny of the country is in the hands of the people who choose the chief executive. They should heed the importance of this task," Ayatollah Khamenei added.
Besides picking a president, Iranians also voted to choose members of the country’s City and Village Councils.
"The City and Village Councils Election is also important as it elects those who are in charge of urban and rural services, namely the everyday issues involving the people,” the Leader said.
Some 350,000 security forces were deployed around the country to protect the election, national television reported.
Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi said no security threat had been observed, adding the "slightest anti-security move" would be dealt with accordingly.
"In the past, anti-security and counter-revolutionary currents were trying to somehow create threats, but this time around, we are witnessing a decline in this regard," he said.
Before voting had even concluded, the head of Raisi’s campaign complained of multiple "infractions" and called for an intervention by authorities.
Ali Nikzad said there had been "propaganda actions by certain officials and supporters of the government" in favor of President Rouhani. "Such infractions are immoral actions that violate people's rights," he said.
Iranian election rules state that no one can seek to influence voters once the campaign finishes 24 hours before the polls open.
Another official in Raisi's campaign said there had been 219 infractions so far on Friday, and that not enough ballot papers had been distributed in areas thought to favor Raisi, including his home city of Mashhad.
Meanwhile, officials announced they would keep polling stations open for an extra four hours on Friday evening after many people queued for hours to cast their ballots in the presidential and council elections.
Rouhani campaigned on a platform of an active foreign policy meant to enhance international relations, while Raisi vowed a strong economic management towards the elimination of poverty and unemployment.
Raisi also focused his campaign on the economy, visiting rural areas and villages, promising housing, jobs and more welfare benefits for the poor.
Based on Iran’s election law, if no candidate manages to secure over 50% of the votes, a runoff will take place a week later.
Before the elections, Ayatollah Khamenei had called on Iranians to turn out en masse, saying the nation and Islamic establishment were the true winners of the vote no matter which candidate emerged victorious.