Iranian presidential candidates blame economic hardship
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Reformist and ultra-conservative Iranian presidential candidates on Saturday exchanged accusations about the country’s economic crisis during the first pre-election debate broadcast live on television.
The Iranians are expected to elect a successor to President Hassan Rouhani on June 18 amid widespread discontent over a deep economic and social crisis caused by the reimposition of crippling sanctions following the US withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear deal.
Iran’s conservative-dominated Guardian Council approved seven candidates – five ultra-conservatives and two reformists – from a pool of around 600 candidates.
Ultraconservative judicial leader Ebrahim Raisi is widely regarded as a favorite, after the Council disqualified moderate conservative Ali Larijani.
On Saturday, ultra-conservative candidates called on reformist hopeful Abdolnasser Hemmati, who is the country’s central bank governor, to take responsibility for the crisis, and accused him of seeking to defend the government’s record.
“Mr. Hemmati, your governance has been catastrophic, you are sitting here as a representative of Mr. Rouhani,” said Mohsen Rezai, former head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Rouhani is the main Iranian architect of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
The deal has been kept alive since then-US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it in 2018 and reimposed crippling sanctions.
World powers have been meeting in Vienna since early April with the aim of reviving the deal.
Reformist Hemmati instead aimed at the economic plan of his ultra-conservative opponents, saying their promises of massive direct financial aid were “unachievable”.
He also accused them of undermining Iran’s international relations and preventing the country from benefiting from the nuclear deal.
The ultra-conservative Raisi, who won 38% of the vote in the 2017 presidential election, has avoided direct clashes with reformists.
“Inflation is one of the serious problems people face today. The price of basic commodities has risen dramatically,” he said, adding that the “dishonesty of some officials” was the one of the main concerns of the Iranian people.
Iranian media have expressed concerns in recent weeks over the risk of low voter turnout.
A record 57% of Iranians stayed out of the parliamentary elections in February last year, in which thousands of candidates, many of whom were moderates and reformists, were unable to stand.
Further televised debates are scheduled for Tuesday and Saturday.
© 2021 AFP