The uprising of 2009 has placed a cloud over the Iranian elections this year. This is due in large part to the reality that there is an undercurrent to Iranian society as they express displeasure with the ruling regime.
The second televised presidential debate started with a warning to the candidates. The Friday prayers’ leader in Tehran, who usually reflects the supreme leader’s messages, said: “The debates should be on presidential issues…. But we must avoid acts that rattle society.”
There is a belief through government circles that the audacious debate in 2009 was the spark of that year’s uprising.
The debate that held on Friday followed the warning, but what the candidates were allowed to say focused on shaming the other candidates about their previous records within the regime. One jab was at the current education minister, whose daughter was caught importing clothes illegally.
In respond to a question on education, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran, said: “Last week, police found out that education minister’s daughter imported tons of Italian clothes and stored them in her house…This while her parents sent their daughters to school in turns, so that they can each use their one set of clothes and shoes.”
Throughout the debate, each of the candidate’s lobbed attacks at the others for corruption and scandals. Below are just a few of the attacks and counterattacks from the candidates.
An early jab was from Hassan Rouhani: “When a member of the Majlis (parliament) went to Shiraz (south Iran) to give a speech, your friends attacked him by throwing stones at him.”
Ibrahim Raisi, known for his years in the Judiciary and his part in the 1988 massacre, brought forward the issue of government fraud: “The teachers’ fund was looted and officials took 8,000 billion tomans (2.4 billion dollars).”
The other candidate, Mostafa Hashemitaba, unveiled an upcoming massive crisis: “It is estimated that 10 million immigrants will be added to the cities, and this will create a struggle between the different tribes … threatening our internal security.”
In addition, Hashemitaba brought up one scandal that an elephant in the room: “We had an accord called Cersent, which because of that, we were fined 14.5 billion dollars.”
Mostafa Mirsalim asked Rouhani to talk about the three to four billion dollars that was embezzled under the pretext of bypassing sanctions. He wanted to know exactly where this money ended up.
He also attacked Rouhani about the country’s economic growth rate, and why he didn’t explain that out of 8% of economic growth, 6% comes from oil revenue. The IMF has estimated that Iran’s non-oil revenue is only 0.9%.
In this debate, Rouhani and his deputy appeared to demonstrate restraint, despite repeated attacks from the other candidates. After the debate Ashena, Rouhani’s advisor explained the reason was fear of an uprising: “Rouhani in today’s debate was worried and didn’t want the debate to be a shock to society.”