Iranian presidential candidates clash over disqualification | Elections News
Tehran, Iran – Seven candidates qualified to run in Iran’s June 18 presidential election clashed in a televised debate, as controversy over the disqualification of other candidates persists.
Saturday’s three-hour event focused on the economy, which has been hit hard over the past three years by US sanctions and is characterized by soaring inflation and high unemployment. Two other debates are due to take place next Tuesday and Saturday.
The first session took place without moderation. Instead, the state television presenter chose numbered balls from glass containers indicating which randomly chosen question was to be asked of which candidate, who then had three minutes to offer their answer.
But much of the debate was spent almost completely ignoring issues – from tax evasion and budget deficit management to large bank debtors – as the candidates grapple with and discuss the jobs they judge. necessary to support the economy.
In the second round, each candidate – sitting six feet apart behind the podiums – had four minutes to defend against the others. Then, participants presented their economic plans in more detail during four-minute speeches. Their microphones were cut off the second their time was up.
Judicial chief Ebrahim Raisi, who is seen by far as the frontrunner in upcoming polls, appeared to be the center of attention.
Former technocratic central bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati and former reformist vice-president Mohsen Mehralizadeh were the only ones to criticize the conservative Raisi.
The four remaining conservative and extremist candidates – senior security official Saeed Jalili; Secretary of the Council of Opportunity, Mohsen Rezaei; and lawmakers Alireza Zakani and Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi – did not challenge Raisi, instead attacking their reformist opponents and the current government.
This led Hemmati to claim that other candidates are only covering Raisi, an allegation they strongly rejected.
“Restless position syndrome”
Mehralizadeh said he respected Raisi’s studies in seminars, but argued that he was not well equipped to lead a country of over 82 million people as he had only completed six levels of education. traditional education and had no executive economic management experience.
He also joked that Raisi suffered from “acute agitated position syndrome” as he spent most of his career as a judge at the head of the powerful religious organization Astan Quds Razavi in Mashhad, unsuccessfully presenting himself to the presidency in 2017, then becoming head of the judiciary in 2019.
“What guarantee is there that you won’t give up the president’s office for a higher post?” Mehralizadeh asked, alluding to popular assumptions that Raisi will become the next supreme leader when Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, 82, passes away.
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 responded to public appeals.
Meanwhile, Hemmati, who said he wanted to represent the “silent majority” of Iranians in the election and tried to distance himself from the economic legacy of incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, has come under constant attack from opponents who have tried to present it as part of the problem in relation to the economic difficulties of the country.
Pulling out a rial banknote, quadruple presidential candidate Rezaei said he had known for decades that the struggling national currency would devalue significantly. He called the Rouhani administration one of the worst since the 1979 revolution and said “the revolution train has turned into a scooter”.
The former commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which has been criticized by Hemmati for previously suggesting that Iran could make money by taking US citizens hostage, directly threatened the ‘former central banker in prosecution and in prison for his role in managing the economy. This led Hemmati to ask Judicial Chief Raisi to guarantee that he would not go to jail.
Hemmati also criticized Rezaei and other hard-line supporters for blocking remaining bills to complete Iran’s financial transparency action plan with the Financial Action Task Force, and said he was sorry that many Iranians, especially women, had no representative among the presidential candidates.
Supreme leader defied disqualifications
The feuds between the candidates came a day after Khamenei said the constitutional oversight body known as the Council of Guardians – of which six members are directly appointed by him and the other six appointed by the head of the judiciary – erred in the assessment of candidates.
Without naming any candidates, the Supreme Leader said a number of them had been “tortured” and disqualified on the basis of false information and “demanded” that corrections be made.
He was apparently referring to Ali Larijani, a three-time former speaker of parliament and his current adviser, who could have been Raisi’s main competitor had he not been disqualified.
Sadeq Amoli Larijani, the brother of the disqualified candidate and member of the Council of Guardians, said in a statement that he had never found the body so “indefensible” in his 20 years there, and that the agencies intelligence staff contributed to his brother’s disqualification by offering false reports.
Hours after Khamenei’s speech, the council released a statement in which it said it would not change its votes – essentially disobeying a direct order from the Supreme Leader in an unprecedented move.
First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri and a wide range of other reformist and pragmatic candidates were also disqualified by the council, prompting criticism that non-conservative hopes had been purged.
Voter turnout is expected to be low in the face of widespread public disillusionment due to economic and social hardship.