The Washington Post

Iran’s presidential hopefuls debate on live TV

Iranian presidential candidates attend a TV debate in a state-run TV studio, in Tehran on May 31, 2013. (Mehdi Dehghan/AP)

The eight candidates taking part in Iran’s first televised presidential debate Friday agreed on one thing: They did not like the format imposed by the Islamic Republic’s state broadcaster.

The four-hour telecast focused on the economy, seen as the main issue in the June 14 election, and provided a first look at the presidential hopefuls gathered in what was presumably intended as a more spontaneous setting than their choreographed campaign appearances. No major revelations or policy plans emerged.

In the first round, a moderator drew from a bowl the name of a candidate who then had three minutes to answer a question drawn from another bowl. After that, each of the seven other candidates had 90 seconds to respond.

At the end of the round, following a short break, former vice president Mohammad Reza Aref complained that the format did not allow the men to actually compete.

From then on, the event appeared to go off script, as candidates repeatedly said that the questions in the second round — which consisted of a series of yes-or-no and multiple-choice questions, as well as photographs of domestic scenes that they were asked to interpret — were “mistaken” or “incomplete.”

Who will be the next president of Iran? Here are the eight candidates running in the upcoming presidential election.

“This style of debate is beneath the dignity of the eight candidates and the nation,” said Aref, who declined to answer any questions in the second round, responding only, “I have no opinion.”

Jason Rezaian has been The Post’s correspondent in Tehran since 2012. He was previously a freelance writer based in Tehran.



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