Iranian voters cast ballots in presidential election on Friday

Voters in Iran are heading to the polls on Friday to choose their next president. The election is a de facto three-man contest, with two hardline conservatives and a reformist.

The vote was called to pick a successor to Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline conservative who died in a helicopter crash last month.

The Guardian Council, a panel of Islamic jurists and other members, approved the candidacies of six people. But two of them withdrew.

The three major contestants are two hardline conservatives who do not mind being confrontational toward Western countries, and a reformist who seeks dialogue.

One of the hardline candidates is Saeed Jalili. He was secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, a body in charge of national defense and foreign affairs.

The other hardliner is parliamentary speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who belonged to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The two are battling for support among conservative voters.

The reformist candidate is Masoud Pezeshkian, who was deputy parliamentary speaker and health minister. He is trying to win over voters unhappy with hardline conservative policies.

Preliminary results are expected as early as Saturday. If none of the candidates gains a majority, a runoff will take place on July 5 between the top two finishers.