Hassan Rouhani
Hassan Rouhani Reuters

Iran’s former president Mohammad Khatami, considered the spiritual leader of Iran's reformists, urged voters on Sunday to re-elect President Hassan Rouhani in the upcoming election, Reuters reported.

Iran's hardline security and judicial powers, which operate separately to the presidency and are close to Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have banned media from publishing Khatami's image or mentioning his name, according the report.

Khatami, however, has taken to social media to urge voters to back candidates considered to be pro-reform.

"We have started on a path with Rouhani and we have come half way. We have resolved some problems and bigger problems remain for us to resolve on this difficult path with him," Khatami was quoted as having said in a video message released on social media.

"It is now your turn to renew your vote for our dear Rouhani in order to strengthen hope for a better future," he added.

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.

Despite his recent conciliatory messages and despite being touted by the West as a “moderate”, Rouhani 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.

Under Rouhani's presidency, Iran has set new records in the number of executions, many for political or religious "crimes". He has also done little in the way of freeing reformist political leaders who were jailed after protesting the 2009 election.