Iranians began voting on Friday in a closely-fought presidential contest between pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani and hardline challenger Ebrahim Raisi that could determine the pace of social and economic reform and Iran’s re-engagement with the world.

State television showed long queues outside polling stations in several cities and said 56 million Iranians out of the more than 80 million population were eligible to vote

“Everyone should vote in this important election … vote at early hours,” Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said after casting his vote in the capital Tehran.

Polls close at 6 pm (8:30am ET), although authorities often extend voting into the evening. Ballot counting will start at midnight and final results are expected within 24 hours of polls closing, the semi-official Fars news agency said. The elections are also for city and village councils.8:30am ET), although authorities often extend voting into the evening. Ballot counting will start at midnight and final results are expected within 24 hours of polls closing, the semi-official Fars news agency said. The elections are also for city and village councils.

In a warning reflecting rising political tensions amid signs of an unexpectedly close race, Rouhani urged Iran’s powerful elite Revolutionary Guards, believed to support Raisi, not to meddle in the election.

Suspicions that the Guards and the Basij militia under their control falsified voting results in favor of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad led to eight months of nationwide protests in 2009. Dozens of people were killed and hundreds arrested, human rights groups say, in the worst unrest to hit the Islamic Republic.favor of hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad led to eight months of nationwide protests in 2009. Dozens of people were killed and hundreds arrested, human rights groups say, in the worst unrest to hit the Islamic Republic.

Raisi, 56, and Rouhani, 68, traded charges of graft and brutality on live television with an open vehemence unseen since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Both deny the other’s accusations.

“From the Revolutionary Guards to Friday prayer leaders, the hardline, unelected part of the establishment backs Raisi,” a senior former Iranian official told Reuters.

“But it is a risky decision. It might cause protests similar to those in 2009, as different walks of the society, desiring evolution inside the establishment, have united against Raisi.”

The Guards hope that a win for Raisi will give them an opportunity to claw back economic and political power lost in Shi’ite Iran’s complex theocratic and republican governing structure since 2015, when Iran struck a nuclear deal with world powers that brought it out of international isolation.

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