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.
June 3, 2021
Rezaei Unveils Housing Plan
Citing his experience from the Revolutionary Guards, Mohsen Rezaei outlined his plans for solving Iran’s housing crisis. Rezaei said that he will encourage banks to offer loans on a 10% deposit, and interest payments of up to 18% will be covered by the government as a subsidy, with the mortgage holder only required to pay the price of the house. Rezaei added that with this plan, he can build 2 million houses per year and attract foreign investment to drive the economy forward.
June 2, 2021
Rezaei’s Radio Program Not Aired
Mohsen Rezaei became the latest candidate to have a program not aired at the allocated time. Rezaei said that the radio requested he remove a section where members of the public express reluctance to vote. Rezaei vowed to publish it uncensored on social media adding that “we had a Revolution to hear the voice of the people”.
June 1, 2021
Rezaei: My Subsidy Plan is not Populist
Mohsen Rezaei disputed claims that his 450,000 toman ($100 USD) monthly subsidy plan was populist, saying that it will be funded within three months of his inauguration through the elimination of shell companies and tax evasion.
May 31, 2021
Rezaei attacks Hemmati and Raisi
Mohsen Rezaei took aim at Abdol-Naser Hemmati’s record as Governor of the Central Bank in an interview today. Rezaei, who is putting himself forward as an expert on economy, saying that Hemmati has abandoned control over liquidity during his term as Governor, and allowed inflation to get out of control. Rezaei also made a reference to the protection of Ebrahim Raisi, mentioning comments by the Tehran Prosecutor that criticism of the judiciary by the candidates constitutes a red line. Reformist candidate Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh also criticised the red line issue, saying that Raisi should have resigned as Chief Justice by now and implying he was using his position to deflect criticism.
May 30, 2021
Rezaei: I Will Make the Rial the Strongest Currency in the Region.
Mohsen Rezaei outlined his plan to improve the Iranian economy in his slated air time on Iranian television. Rezaei said he will make the Rial the strongest currency in the region after the US Dollar and the Euro, and added that he had been in consultations with experts on the best way to devalue the currency and then move forward.
May 29, 2021
Warning not to Lie about Subsidy Promises
Ali Rabii, the official spokesperson for the Government of Iran, criticised promises of subsidies made by a number of candidates. Rabii described many of the promises as “imaginary” and warned them about lying to voters, saying any promises should be backed up with an economic plan. Ghazizadeh, Rezaei and Zakani have all made promises of subsidies in recent days.
May 28, 2021
Rezaei Promises Monthly Subsidy of $100 US to Low Income Earners
Mohsen Rezaei promised that if elected, he will provide a monthly subsidy of $100 US to approximately 40 million Iranians classified as on a low income (roughly half of the population). Rezaei said that reforms to taxation, eliminating tax evasion, increased petroleum production and livestock exports will pay for the subsidy.
May 25, 2021
The Interior Ministry Announces Candidates
The official list of candidates approved by the Guardian Council was announced this afternoon at the Election Headquarters by the Ministry of Interior. The list, which was one of Iran’s worst kept secrets, includes seven names: Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, Abdol-Naser Hemmati, Saeed Jalili, Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh, Ebrahim Raisi, Mohsen Rezaei and Ali-Reza Zakani. Notable disqualifications include Ali Larijani and Eshaq Jahangiri, most of whom accepted disqualification, with the expected exception of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The only Reformist among their number is Mehr-Alizadeh.
May 24, 2021
Final Candidates Sent to Ministry of Interior, Fars Leaks Candidates
The final list of vetted candidates has been sent by the Guardian Council to the Ministry of Interior, who will announce the list on the afternoon of Tuesday May 25. FarsNews published a list of seven candidates, supposedly leaked by a journalist who was shown the list: Ebrahim Raisi, Mohsen Rezaei, Mohsen Mehr-Alizadeh, Saeed Jalili, Ali-Reza Zakani, Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, Abdul-Naser Hemmati.