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June 11, 2021

Faezeh Hashemi: If Rafsanjani Was Alive, He Would Support Hemmati

Reformist Faezeh Hashemi said that her late father, former President Ali Akbar Rafsanjani Hashemi, would have supported Abdol-Naser Hemmati in this election. Faezeh Hashemi was a potential candidate in this election but announced she would not run in April as she considered the result a foregone conclusion.

Watch the interview at Eghtesad

June 9, 2021

Hemmati: I Will Meet Directly with US President

Abdol-Naser Hemmati told Associated Press that if elected, he would be willing to meet directly with US President Joe Biden. Hemmati added that the US would have to return to the JCPOA first, meaning lifting sanctions, without any additional restrictions being added to the existing nuclear deal. Aside from a phone conversation between Rouhani and Obama in 2013, no Iranian leader has had a direct interaction with an American leader since the Revolution.

Read more at Donya-e-Eqtesad

June 9, 2021

Politics Centres on Election Banners

Campaign banners of candidates became news on Wednesday. Ebrahim Raisi issued a statement ordering his headquarters to remove his banners saying that they are a waste of money and damage the environment, and requested that donors to his campaign direct their funds to projects that help the people, and not to printing or distributing banners. Saeed Jalili’s supporters, on the other hand, were subject to criticism for creating their own banners through graffiti throughout Tehran. Jalili’s supporters were also blamed for setting alight the banners of Abdol-Naser Hemmati in Qom.

Read about Raisi’s statement at Tasnim
See images of pro-Jalili graffiti on Twitter
See images of burnt Hemmati banners on Twitter

June 8, 2021

Summary of the Second Candidates Debate

The second candidates debate took place on Tuesday afternoon.

Much of the debate centred on the economic plans of the candidates, as well as COVID and issues affecting women, youth and ethnic minorities. There was also some discussion about cultural and social restrictions in Iran. The candidates did not spend as much time hurling and responding to accusations about each other. However, again there was a notable absence of foreign policy issues, largely because, it is believed, the Supreme Leader declared these issues to be off limits in the election campaign.

Ebrahim Raisi lamented that “People’s trust in the government has reached the lowest level”.

Mohsen Rezaei declared the country to be in a worse situation than during the Iran-Iraq War, but promised that 1400 (2021) is the year of opening.

Saeed Jalili promised “this is not a debate, this is an intelligence test”.

Abdol-Nasser Hemmati said of the election that “it is not a choice between bad and worse, it is a  choice between those who close doors and those who open doors”.

Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi congratulated the national football and volleyball teams on their recent victories, and emphasised the non-factional, universal nature of his planned “salaam” government.

Ali-Reza Zakani said that the next administration must help Iranians increase the birth-rate and housing affordability, saying that 58% of Tehranis’ income goes toward housing.

Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh called for the introduction of a minimum wage.

The debate included accusations between candidates, although not as much as the first debate. Jalili reiterated a point he has made throughout the campaign, that if showmanship takes the place of real work in politics, then the country cannot move forward. Mehr-Alizadeh reiterated his criticism of Raisi’s education, that the Chief Justice had only six classes of proper education. Raisi responded “my degree is not equivalent to what Mr Mehr-Alizadeh says; I have a seminary degree and a university degree”. Ghazizadeh came to Raisi’s defence, saying that Iran has “many great scientists among Islamic scholars, including in economics, and I myself have learnt from the clergy in many matters”.

Mohsen Rezaei talked about how he had become an internet meme, saying that “jokes about me are my capital”, seemingly following Hemmati’s philosophy that all publicity is good publicity.

A few candidates used Rouhani’s failures to attack Hemmati, with Jalili saying “they say we agreed to lift the sanctions, but the sanctions were not lifted”, referring to a statement by President Rouhani in early May. Zakani added “the representative of the Rouhani government here (Hemmati) is not willing to debate” before playing on “hope”, the slogan of the Rouhani campaign in 2013, saying that “this government has left no hope”. Zakani, who resents the term cover candidate used to describe him and others who are believed to be willing to stand aside to Raisi, returned to this topic in the second half of the debate, saying “Mr Hemmati, if I am a cover candidate, you are a cover candidate – come and cover the 8 years of disaster that you caused the people”. Raisi explicitly said that “Mr Hemmati must be held accountable during his tenure at the Central Bank” to which Hemmati hit back with “you have been in the judiciary for 40 years, should you be held accountable for all the sabotage in the judiciary? Now you tell me I have to answer for just eight years?”

COVID was an important issue of debate, with Hemmati said the next administration will fully vaccinate the country. Mehr-Alizadeh said he would vaccinate the country within three months.

The politics of ethno-linguistic minorities were present in this debate. In the first debate, Mehr-Alizadeh and Hemmati both spoke in Azeri, appealing to the large number of voters of Azeri origin. This time two candidates without Azeri background, Raisi and Rezaei, tried to appeal to the same voters. Raisi said confidentially that “the Turkish (Azeri) regions love me very much” while Rezaei embarrassingly and incorrectly tried to say “long live Azerbaijan” in Azeri.

On the future of the youth, Ghazizadeh expressed his dismay at the continual brain drain in Iran, and called for education reform, saying that “our youth spend five years of their lives in a room preparing for the concours (university entrance exam)”.

Issues affecting women also figured in the debate. Hemmati promised that he would have five women in his cabinet, and each of these women would be seriously involved in decision making. Ghazizadeh said that “instead of one, two or five people, I will dedicate the whole cabinet to women” before saying that he believed in meritocracy. Rezaei promised free internet to women head of households so that they could be involved in the online economy, before promising to lift restrictions on women athletes, such as in attending gyms. Mehr-Alizadeh spoke on the issue of the hijab, saying “if a girl’s hair is a hair out, we should not send her a message of terror”. Raisi promised guidance patrols (like morality police), but for economic managers, while Zakani said that people’s privacy was a red line that must be respected.

This discussion tied to issues of cultural and social restrictions in Iran. Rezaei said that the Council of the Cultural Revolution “is no longer efficient;  I ask the Supreme Leader to dissolve it”. Rezaei quoted the lyrics of the song “We Hope for Joy” by Shahin Najafi, a rapper living abroad, saying “our youth have hope”. Hemmati responded with “they rap their music, but ban rap music”.

Watch the debate on YouTube

June 7, 2021

IRIB Grants Raisi Extra Rebuttal Time, Hemmati Protests

A representative for Ebrahim Raisi wrote to the Election Campaign section of the IRIB, the national broadcaster, asking for addition airtime for Raisi to respond to statements made by Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh and Abdol-Naser Hemmati. The IRIB responded, granting Raisi an additional five minutes in the second debate. Hemmati tweeted in outrage, saying that if Raisi is granted five extra minutes to respond to slander, then he deserves at least 20 extra minutes to respond to false accusations from the “cover candidates”, meaning the five candidates other than Raisi.

Read about the IRIB decision at Hamshahri
Read Hemmati’s response on Twitter

June 5, 2021

Summary of the First Election Debate

In the first candidates’ debate of the campaign, the candidates spent as much of their time responding to each other’s allegations as they did answering questions from the public.

The debate began on economic issues, with Ebrahim Raisi discussing how he would deal with smuggling and removing barriers to productivity. Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi outlined the problem and his solutions for the national currency.

Abdol-Naser Hemmati came out swinging, saying “unlike my friends here in front of you now, I actually know about economics”, saying he had a plan for fairer distribution of wealth, and accused Mohsen Rezaei of holding the country back financially for his part in opposing Iran’s signature for the FATF (Financial Action Task Force), an international body responsible for tackling money laundering and the financing of terrorism. He also accused Rezaei of obtaining his economics degree through intimidation rather than study. Hemmati attacked Saeed Jalili for having Trumpian politics, and then accused five of his opponents of being cover candidates for the sixth, Ebrahim Raisi, saying he will not respond to their criticisms unless they vow not to drop out of the race for Raisi. Hemmati then turned to Raisi, saying he had special respect for him for being a genuine candidate, unlike the others, before attacking his record in the judiciary and accusing him of oppressing the people.

Mohsen Rezaei tried to change the tone of the debate and push the heat back onto Hemmati, saying that the former Governor of the Central Bank had overseen the decline in the economy. Rezaei criticised Hemmati for offering subsidies to “rent-seekers” but not to the poor, and said he had turned the Revolutionary train into a scooter. Rezaei then emphasised that he is a soldier of Iran, and lamented “that Hemmati sympathises with the enemies of the Iranian nation is a great defect on his part”.

Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh began by outlining the problems of Iran, with 50% of Iranians subsisting below the poverty line and 7 million “heads of households” without a fixed reliable income. Mehr-Alizadeh directed most of his criticism towards Raisi, asking how a man with “seminary literacy” to solve the problems of the economy, asking the Iranian voters if they would hire an unlicensed driver to be their chauffeur. Mehr-Alizadeh said that the judiciary is still run as it was in the days of the Qajars, and Raisi suffers from “Restless Post Syndrome”, meaning he does not stay in one senior role long enough to be effective.

Ali-Reza Zakani directed his criticism for Hemmati, saying that the failure to sign up to the FATF was his fault, and as recently as two years ago he was saying that the FATF was not important. Zakani also said of Hemmati: “you say you want to redistribute wealth but all you have done is redistribute poverty”. Zakani also said the economy needed a leap in production, and needed to deal with tax arrears.

Saeed Jalili continued with the theme of attacking Hemmati, saying that when he was head of the Supreme National Security Council, he had several meetings with Hemmati in which the senior economist was given assistance in solving the problems of Iranian financial institutions, and he failed.

Ebrahim Raisi said “it is very bad that someone in the guise of a presidential candidate destroys others just to get votes” adding that no country has ever solved its problems through slander. Raisi then spoke to his record as an economic manager, particularly in increasing production, before speaking of his positive contributions as Chief Justice, which he said brought him in close consultation with the executive branch of government, and therefore gave him an understanding of the workings of the presidency. Raisi added that “management is the missing link in the country. I can line up many economists to solve the country’s problems but today, people want good management. Today, people are looking for a powerful economic manager who can solve problems”.

Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi echoed Raisi in his criticism of the tone of the debate and the need for good economic management. Ghazizadeh focused on tackling inflation and the housing crisis.

The take away is that Hemmati succeeded in getting all of the candidates talking about him, giving the impression that he is the alternative to Raisi. Whike Raisi succeeded in staying on track, presenting his plan and responding to Hemmati in a measured fashion, debates like these usually favour the underdog over the favourite, and it seems Hemmati turned this debate into being more about him than Raisi. Finally, the amount of time the other candidates spent in responding to Hemmati’s criticisms and levelling their own made them look irrelevant. Ghazizadeh, Jalili and Zakani did nothing to break the impression that they are pro-Raisi candidates. Mehr-Alizadeh was quite sheepish and although the same cannot be said of Rezaei, who did seem well prepared, his message was confused at times.

The next debate is on Tuesday, June 8.

Watch the debate on YouTube.

June 4, 2021

Hemmati: Zarif is a Strong Patriotic Diplomat

Abdol-Naser Hemmati described Mohammad-Javad Zarif as a “strong and patriotic diplomat”, adding that if the outgoing Foreign Minister does not want to be part of his government, he will always benefit from his advice. In the Clubhouse session, Hemmati positioned himself as a strong actor on foreign policy, saying “interaction (with the West) does not mean compromise” and stating that his first priority was to increase the importation of COVID vaccines to the country. Read more at IRNA

June 3, 2021

Raisi Does Not Have a Twitter Account

According to Ebrahim Raisi’s campaign headquarters, the Chief Justice does not have a Twitter page, and there is no direct relation between accounts that support Raisi and the candidate himself. The statement comes after an account believed to be the official Raisi page went live on Twitter, only to immediately be trolled by Abdol-Naser Hemmati.

Read more at IRNA

June 2, 2021

Hemmati Meets with Hassan Khomeini

Abdol-Nasser Hemmati met with Hassan Khomeini, the grandson of Ayatollah Khomeini, for nearly 2 hours where the candidate discussed his plans for the presidency with the influential figure. Although he did not explicitly express support for Hemmati, the meeting was warm and Khomeini, who withdrew his candidacy at the request of the Supreme Leader, clearly still intends to play a role in this election. 

Read more at Modara

June 1, 2021

Guardian Council Implies Hemmati Could Be Disqualified

Following remarks made by Abdol-Naser Hemmati on air in which he criticised the harassment of women for not observing proper hijab, Ahmad Khatami, a senior clerical member of the Guardian Council said Hemmati’s comments went against Islamic rules on women and the veil in public places, and warned Hemmati that he should be careful since adherence to Islam is legally necessary for candidates in elections. Several commentators interpreted this as a threat that Hemmati, who is shaping up as the main challenger to front-runner Ebrahim Raisi, may be disqualified before election day. These commentators linked Ahmad Khatami’s comments to a statement on May 7 by another Guardian Council member, Hadi Tahan Nazif, that candidates can be disqualified during the campaign period if it is determined by the Guardian Council that they are no longer eligible. For his part, Hemmati said that he will not censor himself, even if it risks his disqualification, and he is merely reflecting the views of the majority of the people.

Read Ahmad Khatami’s comments at Didbaniran
Read Hemmati’s response at ILNA