Iran's first vice president, Eshaq Jahangiri, on Tuesday pulled out of this week's presidential election and endorsed the incumbent, Hassan Rouhani, AFP reported, citing the Iranian ISNA news agency.
"I will vote for Mr. Rouhani in the presidential election," Jahangiri said as he announced he was withdrawing his candidacy.
"I have completed my historic duty and, together with you, I will vote for Rouhani to help continue on the path to progress for this country," he added, speaking to a crowd of several thousand people who gathered in the southern city of Shiraz.
"Vote for Rouhani because he is the man for difficult situations... I ran as candidate to make the voice of reformists heard," said Jahangiri.
Rouhani, who won the presidential election in 2013, seeks a second term in office in the election on May 19, but has come under fire by his opponents over his failure to revive Iran's stagnant economy despite a nuclear deal with world powers that ended many sanctions imposed on the country.
Rouhani was endorsed earlier this week by former president Mohammad Khatami, who is considered the spiritual leader of Iran's reformists.
Jahangiri’s decision to withdraw was announced one day after Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf withdrew from the race, paving the way for a head-to-head battle between Rouhani and conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi.
Despite Rouhani’s recent conciliatory messages and despite being touted by the West as a “moderate”, he has in the past called Israel “illegitimate” and lamented that the crisis in Syria has made it difficult for Iran to focus on harming Israel.