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Politics

Iran's Presidential Debate: Candidates Fail to Inspire, Again

June 21, 2024
Solmaz Eikdar
4 min read
The second debate among candidates for Iran's upcoming presidential election was held on Thursday, and once again, it was long and tedious
The second debate among candidates for Iran's upcoming presidential election was held on Thursday, and once again, it was long and tedious
The topic of the debate was the "justice-oriented service of the government"
The topic of the debate was the "justice-oriented service of the government"

The second debate among candidates for Iran's upcoming presidential election was held on Thursday, and once again, it was long and tedious.

The topic of the debate was the "justice-oriented service of the government." 

During the debate, the political and religious figures selected by the Guardian Council presented a certain picture of Iran to attract public attention and citizens' votes. 

They highlighted the widespread poverty and crises in various fields, such as the environment, health, and education, affecting Iranians.

Candidates' Reports on Iran's Current Situation

The leader of the Islamic Republic, in August 2023, claimed in a speech: "We have reached the peaks, today is not the day to get tired and despair." 

Over the past year, especially after the death of President Ebrahim Raisi, the propaganda machine of the Islamic Republic attempted to portray his government as one with golden achievements.

However, the candidates for the presidential election showed a stark contrast to this image. 

In the first round of debates, candidates discussed the widespread poverty in Iran.

Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, one of the five fundamentalist candidates, stated: "Now 30 percent of Iranian society has an income of less than 12 million tomans and they need help."

Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf emphasized the difficulties faced by many households and questioned why retirees who have worked all their lives should be poor.

Conservative candidate Mostafa Pourmohammadi criticized the subsidy distribution in the country, pointing out that the economy has been stagnant for the past 10-11 years and mentioning the lack of resources as a significant problem.

Massoud Pezeshkian, the only reformist candidate, also spoke about the worsening situation of those below the poverty line and the dire conditions at the borders and margins.

Alireza Zakani blamed the government of Hassan Rouhani for the country's deplorable state.

During the second round of the presidential candidate debate, Saeed Jalili highlighted the financial burden on families, stating that a family of four earning between 12 and 16 million tomans pays about ten percent of their salary in taxes.

On Leadership

Several verbal conflicts and interruptions occurred during the debate. 

However, after a short breather, the atmosphere in the studio calmed down, possibly due to a change in the title and photo on the official website of the leader of the Islamic Republic. 

An article published by Ali Khamenei's office quoted him saying, "Let morality rule. Slandering, spreading mud, does not help the progress of things; it also harms the national reputation." 

After this, candidates spoke less to each other but continued to present the picture of the country's situation.

Environmental Issues

Ghazizadeh Hashemi highlighted Iran's environmental crises, noting the scarcity of clean days and the need to eliminate air, soil, noise, and food pollution.

Ghalibaf also emphasized the issues of air, water, and soil pollution and pointed out crises like the lack of powdered milk. 

Health and Treatment

Pourmohammadi criticized the current state of healthcare in the country, stating that many doctors lack sufficient supplies, and medical staff face serious problems, with nurses in particularly difficult situations.

Jalili mentioned that in the last 24 hours, 1,200 people had died, of which 47 percent were premature deaths under the age of 70 and 22 percent under the age of 50, with causes including air pollution, smoking, and complications from diseases like obesity.

Education

Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf admitted that the education budget has decreased compared to the 70s. Mustafa Pourmohammadi also mentioned the economic crises and the lack of trust between people and officials.

Broadcasted on Thursday evening, the debate focused on the "justice-oriented service of the government." However, it seems to have fueled public cynicism and apathy instead of inspiring voter engagement.

The debate, featuring six candidates, was met with a notably cold reception on social media.

Users described it as "pathetic," "repetitive," and "boring," with many lamenting the low level of political discourse. 

Even Hamid Rasaei, a hardline member of parliament, criticized the format, calling it "a boring round table between six candidates" rather than a proper debate.

At the center of the controversy was Alireza Zakani, the mayor of Tehran and a conservative candidate. 

Zakani's ambitious promises, including a "special golden subsidy package" that would provide families with the equivalent of 20 grams of gold annually, along with free medical services for pregnant women, retirees, and children, drew sharp criticism and skepticism.

On the other hand, Pourmohammadi openly questioned the sincerity of Zakani's promises, suggesting they might be "false." 

Mohsen Borhani, a suspended professor from Tehran University, expressed dismay that someone of Zakani's "level of literature and reasoning" holds a position on the university's board of trustees.

Television presenter Reza Rashidpour called Zakani's promises "disgusting" and accused him of despising the Iranian people by attempting to "buy votes." 

Economic journalist Behnam Samadi pointed out the mathematical impossibility of Zakani's gold promise, noting that it would require 533 tons of gold annually, far exceeding Iran's total annual gold production of eight tons.

The debate also saw Zakani launching a direct attack on former President Hassan Rouhani, claiming that Raisi's three-year term was superior to Rouhani's eight years in office.

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