Two candidates in Iran's presidential election dropped out on Wednesday, the last day of campaigning, The Associated Press reports.
Mohsen Mehralizadeh, the only reformist candidate in the vote, as well as hard-line contender Alireza Zakani withdrew from the race, state media reported, leaving just five candidates in the field.
The departure of 64-year-old Mehralizadeh, who served as governor in two Iranian provinces, is aimed at consolidating support for Former Iranian Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati, who has positioned himself as a leading moderate and stand-in for President Hassan Rouhani, who is term-limited from running again.
Polls indicate Hemmati lags behind hard-line judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi, the presumed front-runner long cultivated by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
As the field narrowed on Wednesday and Hemmati sought to rally the pro-reform vote, he announced that he'd select current Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to join his administration as either vice president or foreign minister.
Seven candidates, five of them ultraconservatives, were approved for Friday’s election. The Guardian Council, which is in charge of vetting presidential candidates, disqualified several prominent figures from standing for election, including long-time parliament speaker Ali Larijani.
Rouhani, who had publicly protested the Guardian Council's rejection of high-profile nominees, on Wednesday pleaded with the Iranian public to vote nonetheless.
Despite being touted as a “moderate” reformist, Iran has set new records under Rouhani’s presidency 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 and in stopping the limitations on freedom of speech in Iran, despite having openly criticized it.