Candidates of the 12th presidential elections, slated to held on May 19, expressed their views about various economic, political and social issues in the framework of three rounds of televised debates. The candidates included Ebrahim Raeisi, Custodian of the Imam Reza Holy Shrine in Mashad; First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri; Mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf; former minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Mostafa Mirsalim; former Minister of Physical Education Mostafa Hashemi Taba, and President Hassan Rouhani. The debates were held on April 28, May 5 and May 12 respectively. The following is a summary of the major issues raised in the debates: The first debate was focused on economic and social topics including emigration to big cities, the need to establish e-government, unemployment of the Iranian youth, tax policies, particle pollution and environmental problems. The second debate was held with the political and cultural issues in the spotlight. Major issues discussed in the second debate included the foreign policy, interacting with critics, defense policy, national security and Iranian-Islamic lifestyle as well as Iran’s nuclear rights. Commenting on the landmark nuclear deal also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed in 2015 between Iran and six world major, all candidates agreed that it is an international agreement which should be respect by all parties. However, a number of the candidates including, Mirsalim and Raeisi believed that the deal has failed to completely serve the interests of the Iranian nation. Raeisi, a 56-year-old principlist candidate, said the JCPOA has failed to end Iran’s economic recession and remove all banking sanctions. Mirsalim, a 70-year-old conservative candidate, said the nuclear agreement proved to the world that Iran does not seek to develop nuclear weapons. However, Rouhani defended performance of his administration regarding the JCPOA noting that the deal has led to the removal of all nuclear-related sanctions. Jahangiri, the 59-year-old ally of President Rouhani, described the nuclear deal as one of the greatest achievements in the history of Iran without which the country’s oil exports could have been stopped. However, in the third and last debate the six candidates expressed their plans on economic challenges facing the country including smuggling and imports, dependence on oil revenues, reduce crude oil sales, banking issues, domestic production, subsidies and economic growth. Mirsalim said he plans to reduce crude oil sales in favor of exporting domestic products. He added that the sales of crude oil have made the country more dependent on other countries. Supporting Mirsalim’s idea, Raeisi said that building of refineries in various provinces would reduce crude oil sales. Meanwhile, Hashemi Taba, 70, opposed to the idea of building refineries in different parts of the country arguing that would not be economical. He also said that an “export-oriented” economy would help reduce smuggling of goods and promote the policy of Economy of Resistance. The six candidates continued their campaign by addressing people in different meetings both in the capital Tehran and other cities. However, one of the candidates, Qalibaf officially quitted the presidential race in a letter sent to the Elections Headquarters on Wednesday (May 17). He had earlier announced that he would support Raeisi in the presidential elections and asked his supporters to vote for the principlist candidate. Jahangiri, another candidate has also dropped out from the presidential race in favor of Rouhani. Releasing a statement on May 16, Jahangiri told his supporters to vote for Rouhani. Another presidential candidate, Hashemi Taba, had earlier announced in a message that he would vote for Rouhani but he did not explicitly said that he quitted the race. The Elections Headquarters announced that according to elections law any candidate wishing to quit presidential campaign should deliver his resignation in writing to the election headquarters and supervisory board.
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