Jun 12, 2021 17:56 UTC
  • Candidates hold last debate before June 18 election

The third and final debate in Iran’s 2021 presidential election has gone according to an already established pattern of candidates joining two opposing fronts but also engaging in almost incessant attacks on the President Hassan Rouhani administration.

According to Press TV, the third debate, held on Saturday (June 12), also offered the candidates a last opportunity to appeal to the largest audience, presumed to have tuned in for the last in-person encounters.

But unlike the previous two debates, organizers had made sure they would accommodate, at least partially, complaints by some of the candidates that the format of the debate so far had been unhelpful to a thorough presentation of their plans. Each candidate was given seven minutes in the third debate — instead of the three and four minutes in the last two rounds — to explain their plans.

Even so, some of the candidates would run out of time, and were interrupted mid-sentence as their microphones were automatically cut off.

The topic of the third debate was the concerns of the people, considered by some observers as broad and overlapping with the subjects already covered in the last two debates, including the economy. The moderator, Morteza Heidari, listed some seven issues as the concerns of the highest priority among the Iranian people, according to surveys he said had been conducted by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). High prices and inflation topped the list, even though the economy had been the topic of the first debate.

Soon enough, and in accordance with a model they had already displayed, the candidates grouped into two opposite camps: the Reformists, comprising Nasser Hemmati and Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh; and the Principlists, namely Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi, Sa’eed Jalili, Ebrahim Raeisi, Mohsen Rezaei, and Alireza Zakani. And almost none of the candidates from one group attacked another on the same side.

But that did not mean that Reformist-versus-Principlist battles were the only ones fought. Criticism of the Rouhani administration was also prevalent.

Many of the candidates promoted a change in governance, although each had a different perception of that reform in mind. Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi said a new, younger generation of people had to take over; Nasser Hemmati emphasized that economists had to be given a chance to run the country; Sa’eed Jalili highlighted a holistic manner of governance to address the people’s most fundamental concerns; Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh warned that the politicization of economic matters had to end; Ebrahim Raeisi highlighted a fight against corruption; Mohsen Rezaei said he would end factionalism; and Alireza Zakani made no secret of his will to purge anyone perceived to be of like mind with President Rouhani.

Economic pledges also featured strongly. Most notably, Zakani pledged to halve the inflation rate — currently at a point-on-point average of 50% — by the end of his first year in office.

Rezaei defended a plan to give Iranian households 4,500,000 rials (10.9 dollars) in monthly cash handouts — a promise that has drawn opposition from many observes, and even fellow-Principlist Zakani.

Raeisi said he would issue “credit cards” to the three lowest economic castes.

And Hemmati said economic growth and stability hinged on tranquil international relations, not disrupted by domestic “hard-liners,” to which Jalili responded by saying that sanctions against Iran were “inevitable” and that the economy had to be inoculated against foreign pressure by a reliance on domestic capacities for growth.

MG

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