Iran’s presidential candidates make closing arguments

Before the mandatory electoral silence came into effect on Thursday and Friday [June 13-14], each of the six Iranian presidential candidates made his case to the voters.

In his last message to the voters, the moderate-conservative candidate Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf tried to distinguish himself from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whom many Iranians blame for the economic crisis, despite his rosy promises.

Over the past three years, Ahmadinejad stood against the supreme guide and tried to blame his poor economic and political performance on weak presidential powers in the constitution. Ghalibaf is not relying on Ahmadinejad’s voters, whom many think will vote for the radical candidate, Saeed Jalili.

In his last message, Ghalibaf intimated that if elected he would not quarrel with the supreme guide. Ghalibaf said, “Please remember what I am saying now: After I become president, the people will not hear me complain that ‘they didn’t let me work.’ I have no right saying that the constitution doesn’t allow me to work. I will not consider only the constitutional clauses that I like. I will not consider only the constitutional clauses that talk about the rights of the people from the government. But I will also consider the constitutional clauses that talk about the rights of the nation.”

For his part, Jalili is focusing on his negotiating firmness on the nuclear file. Jalili has been the secretary of the Iranian National Security Council since 2007 and is responsible for Iran’s negotiations with the six major powers.

In his last message before the electoral silence, Jalili stressed Iran’s right to acquire nuclear knowledge. He showcased his negotiating firmness in the defense of that right and his commitment to Iran’s regional role. By doing so, he deflected the attacks against him by the conservative-moderate candidate Ali Akbar Velayati and centrist candidate Hassan Rouhani.

Jalili said, “Statements by US research centers and US officials clearly acknowledge that Iran is a regional power and that no regional problem can be solved without it. The Islamic Republic has created the capabilities that enable it to challenge the major powers. Iran sat and negotiated with six major powers and in the end it is them who retreated from their positions.”

In his last message before the electoral silence, Velayati discussed international relations, one of his specialties. Velayati was Iranian foreign minister for 16 consecutive years (1981-1997). In his last message, Velayati directly attacked Jalili and his performance over the past six years. Velayati repeated his anti-Jalili attacks from the debates. Velayati said, “If the next administration interacts with the world rather than defy it, most of the county’s internal problems will be solved. No country can isolate itself from the world, not even the US, which cannot continue its growth without interacting with the world.”

Like Velayati, centrist candidate Rouhani focused on how international relations should be handled. He attacked Jalili’s negotiating style. Remarkably, Rouhani’s last message before the electoral silence seemed more directed to the outside world and to those interested in Iranian foreign policy than to the Iranian voters.

In his last message, Rouhani said: “Unfortunately, the country’s performance in foreign relations is not good. The next administration should focus on reestablishing our foreign relations. As a first step we must remove the misunderstandings and reduce the tension with both the major powers and some regional powers. My administration’s first foreign relations priority will be to maintain and protect our national interests by building confidence and easing tension with the outside world.”

Independent candidate Mohsen Rezai has improved in the race in the last two days. A week ago, he was expected to finish fifth. But now many expect him to do better. In his last message he talked about the links between international sanctions, the nuclear program and international relations. He said, “The Americans have imposed economic sanctions on us. But we obtained the time that we need. In spite of this, we have to change track. I will seriously negotiate with the six world powers. I will form a negotiating team made up of specialists and Iranian diplomats dedicated to the [nuclear file.] God willing, we will solve the nuclear problem that way.”

As the Iranians cast their ballots today, they will reveal which electoral message convinced them most.

By Al-Monitor


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