The seven presidential candidates qualified by the Guardian Council to run in this month’s presidential election traded strong barbs in their first debate on Saturday, which was focused on their economic views.
In the heated debate, the candidates – five conservatives and two moderates/reformists – accused each other of treason or of lacking the education to run the country’s economy.
The five conservative candidates, Ebrahim Raisi, Saeed Jalili, Mohsen Rezaei, Alireza Zakani, and Amir-Hossein Qazizadeh Hashemi, attacked the leading moderate candidate, former central bank chief Abdolnaser Hemmati, considering him as a representative of the outgoing pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani and his eight-year performance.
Hemmati, and the reformist candidate Mohsen Mehralizadeh, in turn, blamed hardliners for heightened tensions with the West and its negative impact on Iran’s economic woes.
Rezaei accused Hemmati of “fully complying” with US sanctions and said he should face treason charges.
“If I become president, I will ban Hemmati and a number of other officials of the Rouhani government from leaving the country, and I will prove in court which treacherous roles they played,” Rezaei said in the televised three-hour debate.
After Rezaei’s remarks, Hemmati half-jokingly asked leading conservative candidate and judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi: “Mr Raisi, can you give me assurances that no legal action will be taken against me after this event?”
Mehralizadeh said the economy could not be run by those with only traditional clerical studies, such as Raisi.
“You have only six years of classic education, and while respecting your seminary studies, I must say that one cannot manage the economy and draw up plans for the country with this much education,” said Mehralizadeh, who holds a doctorate in financial management.
Raisi blasted Rouhani’s government over galloping inflation and the rapid fall in the value of Iran’s currency, and rejected comments by Hemmati and other moderates who blame US sanctions for Iran’s economic troubles and say without proper management the country would have been worse off.
“This is like a goalkeeper who lets in 17 goals… and then says without me it would have been 30 goals!” Raisi said.