Candidates for Iran’s presidential election have engaged in a fiery and painful first television debate, during which one vowed to prosecute another, the former central bank governor, for treason and bar him and other members of the government from leaving the country. .
The threat to put Abdolnaser Hemmati on trial was made on Saturday by former Revolutionary Guard leader Mohsen Rezaei, current secretary of the Council of Convenience. He claimed that Hemmati had devalued the Iranian currency so much that “the train of revolution has become a scooter.”
The new president will replace Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist who twice won overwhelming votes against hardline opponents after campaigning to open up Iran’s economy to the world. Rouhani had only limited success, after the United States abandoned a nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions.
Hemmati pleaded with a third candidate, Ebrahim Raisi, the clear favorite and head of the judiciary, to stop using his surrogates to threaten him.
The three-hour debate, before the June 18 elections, was widely criticized in the mainstream media for the candidates’ lack of response to questions and for a format that placed central issues such as the future of the nuclear deal and the Covid crisis out of the discussion. limits.
The narrow focus on the state of the economy had the effect of putting Hemmati on his back foot when five conservative-leaning candidates allied against him to portray him as the incumbent and blame him for his administration, especially for high inflation and the collapse of the exchange rate.
Hemmati responded by saying that most of the other candidates were simply covering up for Raisi and challenged them to make a commitment that they would not withdraw from the race before Election Day. He said he was proud that he had not allowed Iran to go Venezuela’s way, adding that he was on his feet to prevent the country’s economy from becoming the same as North Korea’s, a reference to the strong emphasis on state planning. in the proposals of his rival.
He also chided official news channels for their positive portrayals of Raisi, saying his rival was ill-equipped to handle the economy and only made colorful promises that could not be kept.
Hemmati had started the event by saying he regretted that the Guardian Council had not allowed any women to come forward, and ended up pleading with Iranian voters to abandon their apathy.
He ridiculed Rezaei’s comments that the country’s foreign exchange earnings could be increased by taking Western soldiers hostage. “We have been waiting for several months for him to announce his plan on this,” Hemmati said. He also accused Raisi of only obtaining a degree in economics by forcing university professors to award him one.
The other moderate, Mohsen Mehralizadeh, said he respected Raisi’s seminary studies, but said this did not qualify him to lead a country of more than 82 million people, as he had completed only six degrees of traditional education and had no experience. in executive economic leadership. Raisi’s team denied this accusation.
Most conservatives raised proposals on how they intended to boost production and help the poor, prompting Hemmati to say that “with their promises, these candidates are in practice talking about the distribution of poverty, not the distribution of poverty. Of wealth”.