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Iran’s Supreme Leader Warns of Possible Election Fraud

The warning highlights growing tensions over the vote, which is coming down to two candidates with diametrically opposed ideologies. The incumbent, President Hassan Rouhani, is promising greater freedom and more interaction with the world, while his principal rival, Ebrahim Raisi, is a hard-line cleric arguing for self-sufficiency as a way to fix Iran’s ailing economy.

The divisions are playing out in provincial towns as well as in the capital, Tehran. Every night, tens of thousands of people take to the streets around the country, waving the posters of their favorite candidates.

Supporters of Mr. Raisi chant that Mr. Rouhani will be out of a job after Saturday, when the results come in. At the same time, urban Iranians fully expect Mr. Rouhani to win, and they are likely to suspect fraud if he falls short.

In 2009, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election bid took place in a similarly tense atmosphere. When the authorities said he had won, huge protests erupted, leading to months of unrest.

Some analysts say that Mr. Khamenei’s warning shows that there is concern within Iran’s establishment that certain groups might try to alter the outcome of the vote. Others say it might also be aimed at eliciting maximum voter turnout, an important measure of the government’s credibility. That said, many Iranians, particularly in Tehran, say they vote only to prevent a hard-line candidate from taking power.

The supreme leader also criticized some aspects of the election campaign. “In election discussions, sometimes statements were made that did not suit the dignity of the Iranian nation,” he said. “However, the Iranian nation’s high turnout will fix all these problems.”

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NYtimes