Presidential hopefuls discuss Iran's economy in first televised debate

Six presidential candidates have commenced the first of five debates in Tehran, focusing on economic issues. (Photo/Reuters)

Six presidential candidates discussed Iran's economic problems in a four-hour live debate on state TV, ahead of the June 28 presidential election following a helicopter crash last month that killed President Ebrahim Raisi and seven others.

It was the first of five debates planned in the 10 days remaining before the vote in a shortened campaign to replace Raisi, a protégé of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei once seen as a possible successor to the 85-year-old cleric.

The candidates were to discuss their proposals and plans for Iran’s spiraling economy, struggling under sanctions from the United States and other Western nations.

They all promised they would try and get the sanctions lifted and introduce reforms but none offered any details. The candidates also discussed inflation, the budget deficit, Iran's housing problem, and ways to fight corruption.

The June 28 election comes at a time of heightened tensions between Iran and the West over Tehran’s nuclear programme among other areas.

A "strong" president

The most prominent candidate remains Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, 62, a former Tehran mayor with ties to the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard.

Among those running for president are also Iran's vice-president, Amir Hossein 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 Pourmohammadi, 64, a previous interior minister under President Hassan Rouhani, are also in the race. The sixth candidate, lawmaker Masoud Pezeshkian, 69, is a heart surgeon.

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.

All the candidates pledged to strengthen the country's currency, the rial, which has plunged to 580,000 against the dollar.

The rial was 32,000 to the dollar when Iran and world powers reached a deal with world powers in 2015 on capping Tehran’s nuclear programme in return for the lifting of sanctions.

Khamenei has final say on all major state matters, including nuclear, foreign policy, space and military programmes.

Former President Mohammad Khatami and former foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal have backed Pezeshkian, though votes in his favour 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.


Source: TRT