Iran’s third presidential debate once again avoids many salient issues
The third and final televised debate between Iranian presidential candidates titled “People’s Concerns” on Saturday was again limited to a limited range of economic issues and avoided most of the other issues the electorate hoped to hear, such as relations with the West to improve the economy. , and social and political freedoms.
Continuing in the style of the two previous debates, the candidates practically limited themselves to discussing certain economic issues. The questions put to the candidates focused on seven themes including “housing, employment, high prices, justice, corruption and the structuring of ‘hidden’ subsidies”. Other issues such as the highly controversial issue of improving relations with the West, the covid pandemic, water management, social and internet freedoms, and US sanctions were once again omitted from the issues. .
The format and questions chosen for the debate by the extremist-controlled state broadcaster were even criticized by two of the five extremist candidates in the second debate.
In the third debate, hard-line supporters mainly focused on criticizing the Rouhani administration and continued to woo the population by promising to fight corruption, unemployment and inflation and boost domestic production. to combat the effects of US sanctions. As in the first and second debates, they avoided criticizing each other and focused on attacking the two reformist candidates. They did not offer any specific solution
Reform-centrist candidates Abdolnaser Hemmati and Mohsen Mehralizadeh, however, cautiously tried to step outside the framework set by the organizers of the debate.
Hemmati directly raised the issue of US sanctions and said all of the candidates’ economic promises cannot be fulfilled while the country is under sanctions. He added that hardliners were responsible for the problems in Iran’s relations with the rest of the world and that its government would not view Arab neighbors such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as enemies. Those close to the campaign of Chief Justice Ebrahim Raeesi (Raisi) have opposed Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers, the JCPOA, and the country’s membership in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) , both important to the people. Iran is currently the only country other than North Korea on the FATF blacklist.
Mehralizadeh, on the other hand, alluded to the growing gap between the people and the ruling system. “I think one of the main concerns people have is the loss of trust in officials and the government. [as a whole]He said and criticized Raeesi for organizing a campaign meeting that grossly violated social distancing rules. He also spoke of various crises facing the country, including “loss of hope” among population, environmental crises, the rights of ethnic and religious persons, minorities and the serious problem of brain drain.
Many Iranians from all political backgrounds, from former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to most reformist parties and groups led by former President Mohammad Khatami to monarchists led by exiled Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi and other expatriate political groups boycotted the elections. They condemned the mass disqualification of all candidates who could pose a threat to Chief Justice Ebrahim Raeesi’s candidacy for president. Khamenei religiously banned blank votes and said voting is a religious duty.
On Saturday, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, one of the leaders of the Iranian reformist Green Movement, expressed his support for the boycott movement. “As a humble companion, I will stand by those who are fed up with humiliating and staged elections and will not give in to decisions made secretly and behind the scenes,” Mousavi said in a statement. Mousavi has been under house arrest since 2011 for not accepting the results of the contested 2009 presidential elections. Analysts say Mousavi’s message is very strong that he does not directly use the word “boycott”.
Numerous opinion polls show that turnout in the June 18 election is the lowest in four decades. Fifty-nine million Iranians are eligible to vote on June 18 with 1.5 million first-time voters. A poll by the government-affiliated Iranian Student Polling Agency (ISPA), released on Friday, June 9 and 10, after the second debate, predicts a 41% turnout in the election, up 3% from the 6 and June 7. The same poll found that 63% of eligible voters said they had not watched the debates.
Several videos have appeared on ‘open mic’ social networks on the streets of Iranian cities in recent days, in which citizens fearlessly criticize the staging of the elections by the Council of Hardline Guardians or speak openly of boycotting the elections. In a video from Tehran, a young man says people are arrested or killed if they protest in the streets and that refusing to vote is the only way to show their displeasure. He then asks the others to show their agreement with him by clapping. the crowd listening to applaud and whistle in support.