Hard-line rivals have hammered him over his failure to boost an economy weakened by decades of sanctions, even after most were lifted after a deal with major powers. "But please don't abuse religion for power".
The first six qualified candidates based on a press release of Iran's Interior Ministry included Ebrahim Raeisi, Custodian of the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza in Mashad; First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri; former minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mostafa Aqa Mirsalim; former Minister of Physical Education Mostafa Hashemi Taba, President Hassan Rouhani and Mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.
That perspective was on full display in an op-ed written by Elliott Abrams, a national security official under former presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, in which he said he was "rooting" for Raisi. All candidates must be vetted by a hardline body.
Although Khamenei, 77, is guarded about his political preferences, he also appears to back Raisi both as a presidential candidate and possible successor. Raisi has appealed to poorer voters by pledging to create millions of jobs. Raisi and his conservative camp's economic platform, which does little more than promise higher cash subsidies, is weak.
Although the supreme leader is officially above the fray of everyday politics, Khamenei can sway a presidential vote by giving a candidate his quiet endorsement, a move that could galvanise hardline efforts to get the conservative vote out. On the other hand, an equally diverse electorate - with different political, economic, social, and cultural backgrounds - demands that their interests be addressed in return for electoral participation that legitimizes the system. In past occasions, results were announced two days later. In a rare interview this month with Al Arabiya, bin Salman said that there is "no room for dialogue with Iran", condemning the Shia nation for its intentions to "conquer the Islamic world" and "spreading its extremist ideologies".
According to USA intelligence estimates and the analysis of Iranian opposition groups, the "nuclear accord dividend" has been siphoned off by the state's instruments of violence and repression, including a huge budget increase to the brutal Iranian Revolutionary Guard, massive expenditures in ballistic missile development and ongoing interference in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere.
No matter who voters are supporting, their number one demand is for the next president to make life more affordable. In the lead-up to the election, most expected the reformist, 68-year-old Rouhani to earn another term.
Rouhani won the 2013 presidential election with almost 51 percent of the vote.
Iranians head to the polls this week for a presidential vote. But voters' expectations of radical change are low. But I will still vote for him. "As long as Khamenei runs policy, nothing will change", said art student Raika Mostashari in Tehran.
The statement also included a pledge to abide by the ban on printing images and statements by reformist leader Mohammad Khatami, and detained opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, who have been under extrajudicial house arrest since February 2011 for peacefully disputing the result of the 2009 presidential election.
Rouhani says he inherited a financial mess from his populist predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was dramatically barred from standing this year by the Guardian Council after falling foul of the conservative establishment.
U.S. President Donald Trump has frequently called the agreement "one of the worst deals ever signed" and said Washington will review it. During his campaign Rouhani has spoken of a full lifting of sanctions, even those unrelated to the nuclear accord. "Everyone's thinking about the next four years and the succession of Ayatollah Khamenei", said Saeid Golkar, an expert on authoritarian regimes and Iran at Northwestern University. Amir, like the majority of the youth and 50 million voters inside Iran, feels the pressure of the stagnant economy, yet like many of his fellow Iranians he wants to belong to the world.
He said that Rouhani has also failed to end Iran's economic recession and remove all banking sanctions.