Iran's Rouhani, presidential rivals face off in pre-election debate

Iranian senior cleric Ebrahim Raisi gestures as he meets grand clerics in the holy city of Qom Iran in this handout

Iran's Rouhani, presidential rivals face off in pre-election debate

In this photo released by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting on Friday, April 28, 2017, presidential candidates from right, Mostafa Mirsalim, Ebrahim Raisi, Eshagh Jahangiri, Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf, Hassan Rouhani and Mostafa Hashemitaba, attend a TV debate in a state-run TV studio, in Tehran, Iran. Rouhani continues to be backed by a super-coalition of Iranian political currents composed of reformists, centrists and even moderate conservatives.

By these words the Leader seemed to be referring to Rouhani saying through the nuclear deal of 2015, he succeeded in preventing a war against Iran.

Ghalibaf berated Rouhani for failing to make good on a promise "to create four million jobs", saying unemployment was Iran's "biggest problem".

While social affairs was the theme introduced at the start of the program, the conversation quickly shifted to economic challenged.

His position is interesting because of statements made about the corruption within the Iranian government, such as one made recently by Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf, the Mayor of Tehran, "The government of Iran in 2016 loaned 530,000 billion of Tomans (about 140 billion dollars) and nobody knows who they are". One of the conservative challengers accused Rouhani of forgetting his pledge to create enough jobs, putting the president on the defensive. The traditionally conservative Guardian Council often weeds out any true moderate candidates from entering elections, meaning many so-called "moderate" candidates are often just softer hardliners.

In Tehran, Seyed Ebrahim Raisi, the chief custodian of the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (AS), focused on plans to combat unemployment, in a speech at an indoor arena, attended by thousands of his supporters. "In the election I have to choose between bad and worse", university student Homeyra Pazokian said. Raisi's lack of experience and name recognition means he has to do better, Tabatabai said.

He repeated that Iran's road to economic recovery, growth and modernisation lay in deeper engagement with other countries. Compared with presidential debates four years ago, however, he "did not manage his time well and his responses were not sharp and to the point", Sabet said. "This is not true", Khamenei said during the meeting, which was held on the eve of International Workers" Day.

"He didn't offer a compelling, a coherent alternative to Rouhani", Azizi wrote.

On taking advantage of the elites for the country's future, Dr. Jahangiri said "today, our country enjoys a high rate of knowledge and one of the duties of vice-president for science and technology is to organize and take advantage of the elites of the country". "Maybe there isn't a whole lot of support for doing more".

There are two more debates scheduled.

Qalibaf, born in 1961, lost to Ahmadinejad in 2005 and Rouhani in 2013 presidential elections.

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