News ID: 128506
Publish Date : 18 June 2024 - 22:18
First Debate

Candidates Get Down to Brass Tacks

TEHRAN -- Six presidential candidates discussed Iran’s economic problems in a four-hour live debate on national TV late Monday, ahead of the June 28 presidential election.
It was the first of five debates planned in the 10 days remaining before the vote in a shortened campaign to replace President Ebrahim Raisi, who lost his life along with seven others in a helicopter crash last month. 
The candidates discussed their proposals and plans for Iran’s economy, braving sanctions illegally imposed by the United States and other Western nations.
They all promised they would try and get the sanctions lifted and introduce reforms. The candidates also discussed inflation, the budget deficit, Iran’s housing problem and ways to fight corruption.
The most prominent candidate remains Muhammad Bagher Qalibaf, 62, a former Tehran mayor. He is running against lawmaker Masoud Pezeshkian, a heart surgeon who has the support of some reformists.
 Among those running for president are also Iran’s vice-president, Amir Hussein Qazizadeh Hashemi, 53, and the current Tehran mayor, Ali Reza Zakani 58. A member of Supreme National Security Council, 58-year-old Saeed Jalili and cleric Mostafa Pourmuhammadi, 64, a previous interior minister under former President Hassan Rouhani, are also in the race.
Qalibaf promised he would be a “strong” president who would support the poor, better manage the economy and effort to remove sanctions through diplomatic means.
Pezeshkian said the sanctions were a “disaster” and also lobbied for less restrictions on the internet. 
All the candidates pledged to strengthen the country’s currency, the rial, which has plunged to 580,000 against the dollar.  
Pro-reform figures such as former foreign minister Muhammad Javad Zarif, who negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal have backed Pezeshkian, though votes in his favor in his parliamentary constituency in the northwestern city of Tabriz declined from 36% to 24% of the vote in elections over the past eight years.
The four-hour debate was structured into four segments, with each candidate taking turns to address questions about their economic strategies in two 4-minute intervals during the first three sections.
The debate concluded with each candidate summarizing their economic agendas in short presentations.
Significant emphasis was placed on the directives of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei regarding the election, emphasizing “robust public engagement.”
A moderator echoed the sentiment of Iran’s top anti-terror commander General Qassem Soleimani that a glorious election holds more power than any military maneuver.
The presidential candidates also paid tribute to President Raisi, extolling his services to the nation.
The questions posed during the first segment of the debate centered around implementing the seventh development plan, particularly focusing on achieving an 8% growth target.
Ghazizadeh Hashemi underscored the need for $200 billion to actualize the seventh development plan.
Qalibaf proposed incremental improvements to address economic hardships. He echoed his campaign theme of enhancing public and investor participation in the economy to sustain purchasing power, emphasizing productivity, cohesion, and efficient economic management.
Pezeshkian promoted export growth and foreign investment as catalysts for economic expansion, advocating for transparency in economic governance.
Jalili broadened the discourse beyond capital attraction, emphasizing capital management, technological integration, and public engagement as pivotal to achieving substantial economic growth.
Zakani articulated an economic strategy pivoting on leveraging domestic, regional, and global opportunities, and strongly advocated for de-dollarization and bolstering the national currency.
Pourmuhammadi expounded on the interconnectedness of the economy with political, social, and cultural dynamics, asserting that economic challenges necessitate addressing international issues with strategic foresight.
The second segment of the debate was primarily centered on enhancing public participation in the economy, empowering the private sector, and effectively utilizing the resources of the populace.
Ghazizadeh Hashemi advocated for economic transparency through mechanisms like the stock market. He described the private sector as a strategic government partner, crucial for increasing tax revenues, and suggested drawing on global experiences.
Qalibaf discussed leveraging the capacities of international blocs such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS, and the significance of agreements with China and Russia.  
Pezeshkian advocated for an expert-driven approach informed by international experiences. His strategy involved reforms, privatization, and the employment of skilled professionals.
Jalili championed utilizing the nation’s inherent opportunities and maintained that a strong government could effectively address economic challenges.
Zakani invoked a statement by the late founder of the Islamic Revolution Imam Khomeini, asserting that the government should refrain from intervening in areas where people can operate.
Pourmohammadi stated that proper policies, supported by experts, people, and capabilities, could resolve economic issues.  
The third segment of the invigorating debate focused on strategies for curbing inflation, addressing the budget deficit, channeling liquidity toward production, and reforming the banking system.
Ghazizadeh Hashemi argued that reforming current stock market policies is essential to restoring public trust. He asserted that his administration could achieve single-digit inflation, emphasizing the need for political authority and internal governance.
Qalibaf identified inflation as a critical issue, proposing solutions such as reforming the banking system, channeling capital into production, and overhauling the budget structure.
Pezeshkian focused on transparency in expenditures, cost control, and supervisory reforms to mitigate economic deficiencies. He emphasized utilizing experienced domestic figures and insisted on strict government budget control.
Jalili underscored the importance of financial discipline and governmental control over monetary circulation. He identified two critical areas that need resolution: banking and budgetary imbalance.
Zakani highlighted the effective use of liquidity, emphasizing public participation in the economy. He advocated for increasing production while optimizing consumption.
Pourmuhammadi emphasized the necessity of expert opinions and robust presidential management for successful economic reforms.
In closing remarks, each candidate was given approximately six minutes to outline their economic plans.
Ghazizadeh Hashemi emphasized his faith in domestic capabilities. Qalibaf underscored the pivotal role of public involvement in the economy.
Pezeshkian, highlighting the importance of consultation, promised transparency and honesty as his foremost commitment to the nation. Jalili emphasized that a fundamental requirement for making a decisive leap forward is for the president to clearly articulate his priorities.
Zakani expressed his ambition to advance justice and progress. Pourmuhammadi, meanwhile, regarded public participation in the elections as the cornerstone of national authority.