Iranian presidential candidates face off in final showdown

June 12, 2021 - 23:54

TEHRAN— Seven presidential candidates gathered at the IRIB building on Saturday to discuss their plans and elaborate on their views on “people’s concerns” in the third and final presidential debate.

The candidates arrived at IRIB building at 3:30pm to prepare for the third debate. The candidates arrived in turn, based on the drawing of lots done last time. Alireza Zakani arrived first and responded to the reporters’ questions. He said people have dignity and no one should misuse the people's dignity.

He called himself “the voice of the looted.”

Mohsen Rezaei arrived next. He said that the share of the women in the economy must be increased, stating that he has a modern plan.

He called his government "operational and strategic with plans based on scientific research."

Reformist candidate Mohsen Mehr Alizadeh was the third candidate to arrive at the IRIB building. He said that government’s transparency will reduce challenges.

Seyyed Ebrahim Raeisi arrived 4th at the IRIB building. When asked about his plans if he is elected president, he said that in his administration he will only appoint persons at managerial posts who are popular, effortful and have an anti-corruption spirit.

Abdolnasser Hemmati was the next candidate who arrived next. He said that the relationship between the people and the government must be fixed.

The youngest presidential contender, Amir Hossein Qazizadeh Hashemi, was the next to arrive. He discussed important issues, such as the JCPOA, saying that his government will remain committed to all international deals.

He said that his administration, whom he has called “Government of Greetings”, will make people benefit from such deals, and Americans will soon realize they will conclude negotiations with action and not just empty promises. 

Saeed Jalili was the last candidate who entered the building. He said that people's concerns must be known to the president, adding that he has truly and tangibly felt people's concerns by traveling to various cities around the country. 

As usual, drawing of lots determined where candidates can sit during the debate. Saeed Jalili was allocated seat number one, with the rest seated according to the following

list: Zakani, Hemmati, Raeisi, Mehr Alizadeh, Qazizadeh Hashemi, and Rezaei.

Qazizadeh Hashemi

The debate began with a question from Qazizadeh Hashemi. He said that mismanagement and lack of trust are reasons behind the major problems in Iran.

He suggested that the solution to Iran’s problems lie in “change in the country’s officials.”  He also criticized the incumbent administration’s negotiation approach, saying, "The Leader of the Islamic Revolution gave an extraordinary opportunity to negotiate with the United States, but government ruined it."

The sitting MP who is seeking presidential post stated that a change in generation of policymakers is the only way to counter Iran’s challenges. 

"Exactly like the very first days of the Revolution, honest youth must come to power,” he exemplified. 

On inflation and high-price rises, which is the primary concern of people, Qazizadeh said inflationary pressures wreak havoc on Iranian households and businesses.

"High inflation rate creates many problems for Iranian families, (different) sectors." He also said if he wins the presidency he will form “ministry of family” to tackle issues of households. 

On his foreign policy, he said he will appoint a foreign minister “with a background in international trade.”

Qazizadeh also said, "A comprehensive system of transparency will be established with the establishment of an electronic government."

He elaborated by saying that if e-government and transparency are needed, Iran also needs cyberspace and should not limit it. He added, "My government will protect the rights of all people.” 

He concluded by saying that if there was an atmosphere of zeal, “our daughters would not have remained without a dowry and people wouldn’t have been pocketed at the stock market.” 

Mohsen Rezaei

Rezaei said Iran has regained its lost authority in security after 300 years. He also said he has divided economy in 3 sections, including “economy of life,” “economy of provinces,” and “economy of family”.

“In areas of defense and security we have done extraordinary things while we are wrestling with economic problems,” said Rezaei, the former chief of the IRGC.

Rezaei also criticized monopoly in import of chador, corn, meat, etc.   (Chador is a large piece of cloth that is wrapped around the head and upper body, worn especially by Muslim women).

He also said officials are caught in a false “factional dispute” and neglecting focus on high price rises.

The former top military officer said “we can again start a move like the Revolution” and create an epic like the time that people resisted the invading Saddam army during the sacred defense.

He said economy needs “two surgeries”: A reform within the system and reengineering the economy.

Rezaei repeated his promise that if corruption is uprooted, his government can provide enough money to pay cash subsidy (to 40 million Iranians). He said the amount of cash subsidy is 450,000 tomans.

He also said a great reform is needed in political atmosphere.

Rezaei stated that his government will establish order in society, emphasizing importance of “collective wisdom”.

He described the youth as "saviors of Iran," stating that his administration will be a mixture of the Revolutionary youth and experienced experts. He added he will build schools for "future leaders".

He also said that he will link producers to the realtors and he will connect the youth to the banks to get long-term loans with low-interest rates. 

He stated that he will not employ "imploring diplomacy," and will not wait for negotiations.

Rezaei reiterated that the managers must have a plan and ask for consultation.

“Managers must be aware of challenges in the next 8 years,” he said, putting an emphasis on the next 8 years as the most important years of the Islamic Republic. He noted that planning and implementation of plans are two separate issues. He once again said that his administration is perfect at both planning and execution.

Rezaei concluded by saying that he has drafted a plan to take “Iran forward,” repeating that he will keep his promises. 

He said that he will promote small businesses, follow a wisely drafted housing plan with long-term loans with low-interest rates, and will give 30% of the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) stocks to the people.

Ebrahim Raeisi

Raeisi stated that he has divided his comprehensive economic plans into three sections: Government reform and tackling corruption and discrimination; family support; and empowering businesses and taking a leap in production.

He also called transparency an important issue and emphasized a regulation of the tax system. He stated that the second most important issue is high inflation that must be controlled.

Raeisi said that he will cut dependence of people's lives to foreign currency (prices), adding that he will give credit cards to lower 3 deciles. 

He also promised to create 4 million jobs in four years.

Raeisi also said if the FATF is beneficiary to Iran, it must be ratified, and if it is not, it must not. On international deals, he said that Iran “is and will be committed to the JCPOA.”

On his post-COVID-19 economic plan, he said that small businesses have been badly affected during the coronavirus pandemic that there is a need to reactivate them. 

Raeisi also said he is and has always been honest with people.

He promised to broaden cyberspace, repeating that internet must be free for lower deciles.

When accused by his rival Hemmati of trying to censor internet, Raeisi said that he never ordered to limit any website or close a newspaper in his term as the Judiciary chief.

Raeisi concluded by saying that his government will lean towards justice, and will utilize all capacities and will execute all development plans drafted in previous parliaments and administrations. He said that the president must have a holistic look at all people.

Alireza Zakani

Zakani began his remarks by saying that high inflation rate is the most important issue at the moment, promising that he will reform budget structure, control inflation and decrease it to a single-digit rate.

He also said that he'll uproot corruption in government, parliament and Judiciary, and promised to regulate wealth distribution system. 

He also revealed a letter written by his rival Hemmati to President Rouhani, proposing increasing petrol prices to 5,000 tomans. 

“52% inflation is a disaster that is the result of the performance of the Rouhani administration. Mr. Hemmati should also answer about high liquidity,” he added. 

“I will reduce inflation by half in the first year,” he promised. 

Zakani said that he will bring transparency to the government through creating e-government by broadening internet infrastructure.

He also said that lower deciles will receive three different rates of cash subsidies.

He described honesty as an important characteristic of presidency, saying that he is here to stop economic corruption. 

He added, “The wealthy are enjoying energy subsidy 15 times more than the low-income people.” 

Zakani said that his government will pay attention to domestic production to neutralize sanctions, with a particular attention to farming. “I will decentralize the management system and give priority to rural areas.” 

He went on to criticize Iran's small share of export and import within the Eurasia zone, adding that the FATF mustn't be signed and trades can be done with all foreign currencies, not just U.S. dollar.

“I will give priority to meritocracy,” Zakani said. 

Praising the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Zakani said without the Islamic Revolution none of the candidates would have been here. He said he will uproot corruption and confront “lying”.

“It's time to rise against looters,” he suggested.

He promised to tackle abject poverty in one year, saying that he'll provide facilities for idled production capacities, promising to follow the constitution. 

“We will administer the rule of law,” he promised.

He also said that he will provide insurance for fertile couples.

Saeed Jalili 

Jalili began the debate by saying that the causes of problems are not a "mystery." 

“The main concern of people is that why problems are not being resolved. People’s concerns and problems is not like the Coronavirus which its origin is unknown.” 

He emphasized that Iran has a great potential, saying that his government plans to draw a roadmap for all ministries to counter challenges. 

He added that the president must use time as an advantage, saying that his administration will not waste time by performing "shows."

The former top security official added, “People are concerned about price fluctuations.” 

He said that economic stability is needed to govern Iran, saying that the sanctions have affected Iran, but not as greatly as it is portrayed by the incumbent president. He added that the leverage of sanctions must be taken from U.S., referring to the recent remarks by U.S. officials seeking further negotiations by threatening to use the leverage of sanctions against Iran.

He stated that a “leap” in production will lead to a leap in economic growth.

Jalili said that sanctions must be neutralized, while criticizing the incumbent government’s negotiating strategy. He said that foreign relations must be made with all countries, emphasizing that the president must understand foreign relations.

“Now some (officials) apologize (about price hikes) but some even don’t seek apology from people.” 

Jalili was referring to Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri who has apologized people for high inflation rate.

Jalili said that he warned the president that the government must do its job faster, responding to Hemmati’s criticism about a costly circumvention of sanctions during Jalili’s term as chief nuclear negotiator. He stated that economic relations can be made with all countries, saying that conventions such as FATF are useless for Iran, calling the JCPOA the "document of Iran as a claimant".

Jalili said that opportunities must be "greatly" used, and researches about production obstacles must have been made by now. He reiterated that now is not the time for researches. 

He said that he will define missions for all organizations and ministries to focus on various tasks, with particular reference to earning foreign currency.
In response to Hemmati’s criticism, he said that in his point of view Iran is considered a member of the FATF, implementing 39 paragraphs out of 41. (Iran is not considered a member of the FATF by the institution)

Jalili also responded to criticism by Hemmati about sanctions. He cited an example saying that Iran’s volume of trade with Iraq is about 12 billion dollars and only the government has not been able to get its money from Iraq but the private sector has been doing its job without hurdles.

Jalili concluded by saying that the next 4 years should be “the years of leap”, and pure Islam should be implemented in the society.

He reiterated that he is not looking for power. 

Abdolnasser Hemmati 

Hemmati began by saying that the United States' sanctions against Iran have wreaked havoc on the country. “Sanctions have disrupted the economy over the last decade.” 

"Iran must engage in trade with rest of the world, cannot survive individually," he said. 

Hemmati attributed the dearth of foreign investment in Iran to sanctions.

Hemmati reiterated that without five percent economic growth “no problem will be solved and without investment economic growth is impossible.”

He went on to criticize government officials, including president Rouhani and minister of economy for encouraging people to invest in the stock market, saying he had warned about bubble in the stock market. He also criticized political interference in the stock market and repeated change of the stock market directors.

He criticized Saeed Jalili for saying that trade could be done with all countries in the world, saying, "Our best friends are Iraq and China, but they do not give us our money. You said "interaction is good, but with whom?! You should know the world will not work with Iran without discussing the JCPOA."  

He said that he will execute the general vaccination program by the end of the year.

Hemmati went on to address farmers, saying that he will guarantee buying their products like wheat at market price. He added, "I will uproot inflation." 

Hemmati concluded his remarks by defending himself. He also urged people to attend the polling stations if they want a prosperous economy.

Mehr Alizadeh 

Mehr Alizadeh began his statements by saying that “lack of trust in authorities” is one of the major concerns in the society.

“Iran is suffering from problems ranging from lack of transparency, brain drain, corruption,” he added. 

He said that the crisis of livelihood, environment, social welfare, trust and social deprivation is the “crisis of today.”

He also criticized government interference in stock market.  “The stock exchange plays an important role in the economy of the country; it should be left in the hands of investors.”  

He concluded by saying that Iranians have two options: ignoring the ballot box or having hope for the future. “Let's go to the polls,” he said.


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