Iran presidential contenders have it out in first debate for runoff

The two top presidential candidates who found their ways to the runoff vote in Iran’s elections, faced off in a televised debate on Monday night on foreign policy, cultural, and social issues.

Reformist Massoud Pezeshkian and principlist Saeed Jalili presented their plans and challenged each other’s views in the first of the two debates aired live on the State Television (IRIB), the second of which will be broadcast on Tuesday evening.

Iran’s nuclear deal with the West, which is now a shell of its former past, and Iran’s accession to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) were among the highlights of the debate.

Pezeshkian said sanctions are a serious detriment to the country and normalizing relations with the world would be on top of his foreign policy agenda.

Pezeshkian added he would toe the FATF money-laundering line and seek to revive the moribund Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement.

Iran presidential contenders have it out in first debate for runoff

Jalili, however, was on the polar opposite side regarding the FATF and JCPOA, saying Iran should not kowtow in front West’s excessive demands or tie the country’s affairs to the decisions made by a few European countries and the US.

He said, “If the other side says they won’t fulfill their commitments, we shouldn’t bow down. This is what they did in those eight years,” referring to the administration of former president Hassan Rouhani.

Pezeshkian was in favor of greater social freedom and was vocally against harsh crackdown on violators of hijab, the Islamic dress code for women, which is constitutionally obligatory in Iran.

Jalili did not rule out social freedom, including in cyberspace, but said there should be restrictions as it is customary all over the world.

Pezeshkian garnered over 10.4 million and Jalili received 9.4 million out of the 24.5 million votes in the first round held on July 28. The runoff election will be held on Friday.

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