Iran's presidential hopefuls hold 1st debate ahead of runoff vote

Masoud Pezeshkian and Saeed Jalili, the two presidential hopefuls in Iran have held their first televised debate before a runoff vote with the focus on political and cultural issues.

According to IRNA's political correspondent, former health minister Pezeshkian and former lead nuclear negotiator Jalili who qualified for the second round of the 14th presidential election squared off to present their plans on political and cultural issues on Monday evening.

Pezeshkian and Jalili won the most votes in the first round but failed to reach the 50% threshold required for an outright victory and therefore the presidential election was extended to the second round that is stated for July 5.

Following are the updates from the first televised debate where Pezeshkian and Jalili had heated exchanges on the topics and questions about the culture and politics raised by the presenter.

The first question was related to how the two contenders would work to encourage voters’ turnout in the runoff as compared to the 40% participation in the first round of balloting.

Jalili answered by saying that "the Islamic Establishment is proud to be based on people's votes", adding that has plans to increase people's participation in policy-making. "If Iran has power, progress, and success, it is the result of people's participation."

Pezeshkian regretted over 40% voters’ participation in the first round, saying "turnout was low and concerning".

Over ethnic and religious minorities, both candidates stressed the need for preserving the rights of minorities as well as workers and women.

"Now we have several million women who are heads of households or have impoverished guardians” Jalili said.

Pezeshkian, however, put the blame for lack of plans on the policymakers and politicians, arguing they do not meet their requirements. "Some who are the backbone of the Islamic Revolution do not have secure livelihood."

He further said that there are laws and programs that must be implemented, adding that "If we want to increase participation (of people in elections), they must believe that officials sit at the same table as they do."

The two contenders also put their point of views about cyberspace, internet, listening to the grievances of people, including artists, athletes, ethnic groups, and university members, students and youth, how to treat people with justice and fairness.

They also touched on foreign policy and relations, with Pezeshkian defending former President Hassan Rouhani's foreign policy in signing the nuclear deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and called for intensified efforts to approve the FATF-related bills by relevant Iranian bodies to expand trade relations with the world.

Pezeshkian reminded that the founder of the Islamic Republic Imam Khomeini and the incumbent Leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei pursued the policy "Neither East, Nor West Iran", so if he forms the government, he will expand ties with all countries and will not rely on one side. "If we want to grow in the world, the more connections we make, the better we can live."

"Do you know how much we are losing right now because of FATF and JCPOA? We are losing several thousand billion every day although some people are profiting from sanctions," Pezeshkian raised the question.

Jalili echoed by saying that “we must definitely have a dynamic, active, and successful foreign policy" but said: "If we want to gain benefits from those with whom we have most differences, it will certainly not be achieved."

He said that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported 14 times that Iran had fulfilled its commitments under the JCPOA, but the other side completely withdrew from the deal. "Let's not accuse our own nation and absolve the other side. The IAEA said Iran fulfilled its commitments, and I say we even went beyond our commitments. But what was the result? They withdrew and sanctions increased from 800 to 1500."

Pezeshkian and Jalili also talked about using disagreements between countries to Iran’s advantage and expressed the need for enhancing relations with countries around the world.

News ID 197888

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