Iranian senior cleric Ebrahim Raisis gestures as he meets grand clerics in the holy city of Qom, Iran, in this handout photo believed to be taken in April 2016. Tasnim News Agency/Handout via REUTERS
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Hard-line preacher Ebrahim Raisi, seen as pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani's main challenger in a May 19 election, is a close ally of Iran's supreme leader and despises the West.Raisi is a midranking figure in the hierarchy of Iran's Shiite religious body but has been a senior official for decades in the judiciary that enforces religious control of the country. Rouhani was elected four years ago in a landslide, avoiding a runoff by securing more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round, on promises to reduce Iran's international isolation and bring more freedoms at home.Insiders said Khamenei, who outranks the elected president in Iran's system, had approved Raisi's candidacy.Raisi's bid for the presidency alarms some reformists because of his long service in Iran's hard-line judiciary.Raisi was deputy head of judiciary for 10 years before being appointed in 2014 as Iran's prosecutor general.Some Iranian politicians believe Raisi is being groomed to succeed Khamenei, the 77-year-old supreme leader who has been in power since 1989, and the presidency is just a first step.
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