TEHRAN (Dispatches) – Presidential election campaign has officially kicked off, with posters on the streets of the capital Tehran and elsewhere urging Iranians to vote on June 18 with a “single voice”, for the future of an “eternal Iran”.
Hamid, a 52-year-old insurance agent, indicated in interview with AFP he had already made his choice: judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi.
Raisi “really worked well in the justice system and did a good job at fighting corruption”, Hamid said.
Raisi won 38 percent of the vote in the 2017 presidential election but was defeated by incumbent President Hassan Rouhani, who is constitutionally barred from running for a third consecutive term.
The candidate-vetting Constitutional Council this week approved seven candidates to run in the election from a field of about 600 hopefuls.
The council disqualified former parliament speaker Ali Larijani and first vice-president Es’haq Jahangiri, as well as former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Rouhani, who has governed with the support of reformists, has been an advocate of negotiations with the West to purportedly open Iran’s economy to foreign investment.
Instead, Iran was plunged into a deep recession which deteriorated after former U.S. president Donald Trump torpedoed Rouhani’s signature “achievement”, the 2015 deal to restrict the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program in return for the removal of sanctions.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has urged the candidates to campaign on economic issues such as youth unemployment.
Mohsen Rezaei, one of the candidates, promised Saturday to increase cash handouts to the Iranian people ten-fold. Rezaei told Tasnim news agency that the increase would neither affect prices nor would they impose an extra financial burden on the administration.
Since 2010, Iranian administrations have been paying cash handouts to households, but the Rouhani government has been removing many families from the list in a bid to narrow it down to the most needy.
On Friday, Rezaei said on state radio that he would cut government expenses by eight billion dollars if elected, making way for the 4,500,000-rial cash handouts.
“We will do away with making decisions behind closed doors and behind windows,” he said. “Our administration will be field-oriented, a field that has plans from diplomacy to individual households.”
Another candidate, Hussein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi, said it is time for a “revolution” in management methods and mechanisms of running the country in order for the administration to become one with the people.
“Regardless of the fact that we have to offer a comprehensive, right agenda to the people for necessary affairs, the onus is on us to put forward a new theory in order to build a new Iran,” he said.
“It is time for deeper changes. A revolution is needed in the mechanisms…; a practical and functional
revolution and a change in the structures,” he said, adding next comes a revolution in management, which means an administration that fully merges with the people.
He criticized the Rouhani administration for what he described as its failure to establish social justice.
“Over the past eight years, we have witnessed the worst gap in the society in terms of social justice and economy,” he said.
“Today is a day for major surgeries,” said the ENT specialist and surgeon, adding the next administration should have “an urgent plan” to address inflation, unemployment, and high housing prices.
The legislator said the 1979 Islamic Revolution was consolidated in the first 40 years, but many of the Revolution’s ideals have yet to fully materialize, such as free speech, prosperity, political independence, and the people’s rule.
Central Bank Governor Abdol-Nasser Hemmati, who is running in the race, said he should not be lumped together with those responsible for the current economic situation.
Hemmati has been at the helm of the Central Bank since August 2018.
“Some individuals who themselves are responsible for the status quo say Hemmati’s performance is partially to blame for the current situation,” he wrote on his Instagram account. “I have for the past two and a half years been partially responsible for changing the status quo not bringing it about,” he claimed.
He also implied that his monetary policies had saved the Iranian economy.
“If the past monetary and foreign exchange policies had continued, there would have remained nothing to compete over,” he said.
Hemmati is closely associated with Rouhani’s economic policies because he is the president’s choice for the Central Bank.
Reformist candidate Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh’s campaign called on the Iranian people to exercise their national right and turn out en masse in the election to help bring “a third Khatami administration” to office, referring to a key figure behind the 2009 sedition.