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Two Candidates Say Nothing About Foreign Policy on Iran TV


Iran’s state TV began its programs introducing the six handpicked presidential candidates on Monday, airing recorded interviews with each candidate before four-hour TV debates take place starting next week.

The interviews with Masoud Pezeshkian and Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf took place on Monday and were focused on the economy and other issues without any reference to foreign policy, the nuclear issue, or hijab.

In his first interview with the news channel Monday evening, Pezeshkian, the only approved ‘reform’ candidate referred to the “divide between the people and the government” as a major issue.

Pezeshkian stressed that his government would not introduce any new economic strategies and policies. Instead, he said, it will try to efficiently implement the existing development plan by reforming the administrative system, making it transparent and accountable.

Pezeshkian criticized the lack of justice in distribution of wealth and resources among the country’s provinces and stressed the importance of improving the lives of civil servants, relying on experts and the elite personnel, improving and stabilizing the environment for domestic and international investment for a desirable level of economic growth.

However, the issue in Iran is not only fair distribution but lack of resources to distribute. The country’s bombastic foreign policy and its expanding nuclear program have impeded oil exports, foreign trade, technology and investments.

Pezeshkian, 69, is running against five hardliners including “neo-conservative” Parliament Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf and former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.

The outspoken cardiac surgeon, served as health minister under reformist Mohammad Khatami and has been elected five times as representative of Tabriz, capital of the East Azarbaijan Province since 2007. He was deputy speaker from 2016 to 2020.

Spokesman of the Reforms Front, Javad Emam, in a statement Sunday expressed regret over the disqualification of the Front’s two other candidates, Abbas Akhundi and former Vice-President Es’haq Jahangiri, as well as candidates of other political groups and confirmed that the Front would be supporting Pezeshkian as its candidate.

The Reforms Front had insisted it would not participate in the elections if none of its three proposed candidates were allowed to run. The Front’s leader, former President Mohammad Khatami, abstained from voting in the parliamentary elections in March to protest the extensive disqualification of ‘reformist’ candidates by the un-elected watchdog, the Guardian Council.

In a short statement Monday, Jahangiri who also registered to run but was barred by the Guardian Council announced his full support for Pezeshkian as the Reforms Front’s candidate.

In a tweet Monday, however, former Vice-President Mohammad-Ali Abtahi warned about too much optimism over Pezeshkian’s chances of being elected based on the increasing attention he is gaining on social media. “Social media only reflects [the views] of a small part of the society. Candidates and their supporters shouldn’t be misled by the social media,” he tweeted.

Journalist and political commentator Ahmad Zeydabadi opined in an interview that for Pezeshkian to succeed, he must become a symbol of change for the younger generation like the leader of the Green Movement Mir-Hossein Mousavi in the 2009 elections.“Two things matter to those who want to vote: what direction are [the candidate’s] plans and how feasible their execution is given the existing structures,” he wrote.

“Mr. Pezshkian has high influence among ethnic groups,” Zeydabadi said, adding that not only the Turki-speaking population but also the Kurds and other ethnic minorities may go to the ballots to vote for him. According to Zeydabadi Pezeshkian’s chances of being elected is good but “what happens after he is elected” that worries him.

Pezeshkian is the front-runner in an online poll by Tabnak, a conservative news website close to the secretary of the Expediency Council, Mohsen Rezaei, with 67 percent of the 16,500 votes Monday. In the same poll, Ghalibaf and Jalili both have less than 13 percent of the votes.