Iranian presidential candidates will hold their first televised debate today as they compete to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in next month’s election.
All eight candidates will participate in the program organized and aired by Iran’s state television starting at 4 p.m. local time, state-run media including Mehr news agency reported. Each will be given 30 minutes to answer questions, mostly focusing on the country’s economy, according to reports.
The shortlist for the June 14 vote mostly consists of loyalists to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is seeking to avoid a repeat of protests that broke out four years ago amid claims that Ahmadinejad’s victory over a reformist president was engineered by ballot fraud. Two prominent would-be candidates , including a former president and a key Ahmadinejad aide, were barred from running.
Khamenei takes the final decisions on affairs of state and has signaled he wants Iran’s establishment to present a united front during the contest.
Iran’s economy has suffered under international sanctions over its nuclear program, with declining oil output, a weakened currency and surging inflation. While most candidates have raised these issues in the first week of campaigning, few have presented concrete plans for addressing them.
Saeed Jalili, Iran’s nuclear negotiator, Ali Akbar Velayati, Khamenei’s longtime foreign-policy adviser, and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf are prominent candidates in the race. Others include Hassan Rohani, who had the nuclear portfolio in the early 2000s, and former parliament Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel.
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