TEHRAN -- With less than three weeks left to the 13th presidential election in Iran, the race is getting tighter among the seven candidates, who are given equal airtime on Iran’s national television to outline their programs.
Outgoing President Hassan Rouhani will hand over power with a host of unresolved issues, foremost the economy.
That’s why economic issues have become the focal point of campaigns, where each runner tries to offer the most convincing plan for fixing the economy.
This year, the coronavirus pandemic has curtailed election rallies and electoral tours. Based on the guidelines set by the coronavirus combat committee, campaigning will revolve around televised debates between candidates, feature documentaries and speeches.
Campaigning began on May 28 and will continue until 24 hours before the election day slated for June 18.
All the candidates are promising to bring about a change. But at the end, it all comes down to the people’s choice, when they cast their vote on June 18.
Hemmati a Liability
A leading Reformist daily said Wednesday the Reformist faction will harm its image if it throws its support behind Nasser Hemmati since he is seen as a key economic decision-maker in the Rouhani administration which the public blames for the country’s current economic hardships.
In an article sday, Shargh daily pointed to calls by some Reformist parties for the official anointment of Hemmati — who until recently was the governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) — as the Reformist faction’s representative in the June 18 presidential vote.
The 2021 presidential election is “full of obstacles for the Reformists,” it said. “The main obstacle is the heavy shadow of the Hassan Rouhani administration falling on the standpoints of the Reformists.”
Having endorsed and supported Rouhani in the 2013 and 2017 presidential elections, said the daily, the Reformist bloc is today seen as a partner in the administration’s poor economic performance in the eyes of the public.
“With that explained, it seems that one of the obstacles in the way of the Reformists is a lack of public trust in any presidential candidate attributed in any way to the current administration,” it read.
The piece took issue with calls by some Reformist groups — especially the Executives of Construction of Iran Party of which Hemmati is a member — for the official recognition of Hemmati as the Reformist candidate in the upcoming presidential election.
“This is while he (Hemmati) is already viewed by the public as one of the economic decision-makers of the Rouhani administration,” the paper said.
It said if the Reformists supported Hemmati, “they would in fact be implying to the public that the Rouhani administration’s economic decisions have our approval.”
Such an endorsement, it said, would thus be “very risky” for the Reformists since the economy is the hottest topic of the day. “This (support) will deal many blows to the Reformist current not only in this election but also in future ones.”
The paper said, “Although Hemmati specializes in economics, some critics see him as a contributing force to the current inflation, in addition to the chaos in the stock market.”
The paper predicted that if the Reformist camp supported either Hemmati or Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh — another presidential candidate associated with the faction — “a defeat would be highly possible.”
“Under such circumstances, it could be more rational for the Reformist camp not to spend its credibility on either of the current contenders,” it added.
Shargh said even Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri who was disqualified as another Reformist candiate could have faced the same fate given his role in the Rouhani administration if he had gained the approval to run.
Reformists to Embrace Raisi?
Ebrahim Raeisi’s campaign chief said some Reformist groupings have contacted him and offered to campaign for the leading candidate.
Ali Nikzad said at a press conference that “certain political, Reformist groupings that are within the Islamic Revolution have come to me and asked to campaign for” Raisi.
Raisi, the current head of the Judiciary, is associated with the Principlists. Before he announced his presidential bid, he faced numerous calls by the Principlist faction to run and was already considered its best bet despite losing to Rouhani in 2017.
Raisi surprised political observers and many of his supporters by saying that he would be running as an “independent”.
Principlist candidate Saeed Jalili said he has drawn up a plan to boost Iran’s foreign exchange earnings, under which all administration bodies, not just the petroleum ministry, would be tasked with helping import foreign currency into the country, whose banking sector has been the subject of tough U.S. sanctions.
Speaking a televised campaign program, Jalili highlighted the significance of the issue of foreign exchange earnings, which, he said, can affect other economic plans of an administration as well.
“Over the past years, we have compiled a plan on the issue, as part of which every single administration body would have a mission to bring in foreign currency instead of remaining a mere consumer,” he said.
Under his plan, Jalili said, all institutions and ministries would be assigned to mobilize the private sector to help with currency imports.