Tehran, Iran – Seven qualified candidates to run in Iran’s presidential election on June 18 have clashed in a televised debate as controversy persists over the disqualification of other aspirants.
Saturday’s three-hour event focused on the economy, which has been hugely successful over the past three years under U.S. sanctions and is characterized by rampant inflation and high unemployment. Two more debates are to be held on Tuesday and next Saturday.
The first session was held without any moderation. Instead, the state television presenter chose numbered balls from the glass containers that indicated which randomly selected question was to be asked to which candidate, who had three minutes to offer his answer.
But much of the debate was spent ignoring issues almost completely (from tax evasion to managing the budget deficit to large bank debtors), as candidates attacked each other and discussed the work they deemed necessary to favor the economy.
In the second round, each candidate, sitting six feet away behind the podiums, was given four minutes to defend themselves from the others. Participants then set out their financial plans in more detail during the four-minute speeches. His microphones were cut off the second the time ran out.
The chief justice, Ebrahim Raisi, who is considered by far the leader in the next polls, seemed to be in the spotlight.
Former central bank technocrat Abdolnasser Hemmati and former reformist vice president Mohsen Mehralizadeh were the only ones to criticize conservative Raisi.
The other four conservative and tough candidates: Saeed Jalili, senior security official; the secretary of the Expedition Board, Mohsen Rezaei; and lawmakers Alireza Zakani and Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi – did not argue with Raisi, but attacked his reformist opponents and the current government.
This led Hemmati to claim that other candidates only covered Raisi, an allegation which they firmly rejected.
“Restless Position Syndrome”
Mehralizadeh said he respected Raisi’s studies at the seminars, but argued that he was not well equipped to lead a country of more than 82 million people as he had only completed six degrees of traditional education and had no experience of economic leadership. executive.
He also joked that Raisi suffered from an “acute restlessness syndrome” as he went from spending most of his career as a judge to becoming the head of the powerful religious organization Astan Quds Razavi in Mashhad, appearing without success in the presidency in 2017 and later becoming president. judicial head of 2019.
“What guarantee is there that you will not leave the office of president for another superior?” Mehralizadeh asked, alluding to widespread assumptions that Raisi will become the next supreme leader when Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 82, dies.
In response, Raisi said criticizing him would not solve the country’s problems. He said he had no ambition for position and power, adding that he only answered public calls.
Meanwhile, Hemmati, who had said he wanted to represent the “silent majority” of Iranians in the election and has tried to distance himself from the economic legacy of outgoing President Hassan Rouhani, was constantly attacked by opponents who tried to portray him as part of it. of the problem in relation to the economic problems of the country.
Upon taking out a rial ticket, four-time presidential candidate Rezaei said he had known for decades that the opposing national currency would devalue significantly. He described the Rouhani administration as the worst since the 1979 revolution and said “the train of revolution has become a scooter”.
The former commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), who was criticized by Hemmati for previously suggesting that Iran could make money by taking American citizens hostage, directly threatened the former banker. central with processing and imprisonment for its role in managing the economy. This led Hemmati to ask Chief Justice Raisi to guarantee that he would not go to jail.
Hemmati also criticized Rezaei and other hardliners for stopping the remaining bills to complete Iran’s financial transparency action plan with the Financial Action Task Force and lamented that many Iranians, especially the women, had no representatives among the presidential candidates.
The supreme leader challenged the disqualifications
The brawl between the candidates came a day after Khamenei said the constitutional review body known as the Guardian Council (six members of which are appointed directly by him and the other six appointed by the chief justice) made a mistake. in the assessment of candidates.
Without naming candidates, the supreme leader said some of them were “unjustified” and disqualified for false information and “demanded” that corrections be made.
Apparently, he was referring to Ali Larijani, a three-time former speaker of parliament and his current adviser, who could have been Raisi’s biggest competitor if he had not been disqualified.
Sadeq Amoli Larijani, brother of the disqualified candidate and member of the Guardian Council, said in a statement that he had never found the body so “indefensible” in his twenty years that he was there, and said intelligence agencies. license contributed to the disqualification of his brother by providing false reports.
Hours after Khamenei’s speech, the council issued a statement saying it would not change its votes, essentially disobeying a direct order from the supreme leader in unprecedented action.
First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri and a wide range of other reformist and pragmatist candidates were also disqualified by the council, prompting criticism that non-conservative aspirants were being purged.
Electoral turnout is expected to be low in the face of widespread public disillusionment due to economic and social problems.