By Firoozeh Matin, Rooz Online
Since their official endorsement, Iranian presidential candidates have engaged in a game of one-upmanship to expose the dire economic conditions of the country. One announced that Iran owed 30 million Dollars to China, another said there were three million unemployed in Iran, others proclaim unprecedented rise in the rich-poor gap, and various inflation rates, conditions that in the words of Majlis speakers differ vastly with what the Ahmadinejad's administration has been boasting. The claims have turned so venomous that Iran's Central Bank and the minister of industries and trade intervened last week by issuing criticism of the media.
Even the special session held by the election security committee did not stop this game, prompting a response from the head of the judiciary.
The strategy of all the candidates of this round of presidential election, who are at best mid level politicians within their own camps, seems to have opted to devise their campaigns around tangible issues that people are mostly familiar with: i.e., crises that are primarily related to economic and diplomatic issues.
Cartoon: Iran's sinking economy (Titanic II)
At the same time, the publication of some disturbing economic statistics has raised serious concerns among senior authorities even provoking ayatollah Khamenei to issue a warning to the candidates on Tuesday.
"Those gentlemen who have activities scheduled at the national radio and television carry a heavy burden and must be careful not to make false remarks for the sake of winning over the public. Presidential candidates must only present the realities, about themselves and about the country. Candidates should not engage in destroying other candidates or the realities of the country," he said.
The head of Iran's judiciary too, Sadegh Amoli Larijani echoed these words in his remarks. "People expect the presidential candidates to maintain the respect and greatness of the Islamic regime and not make remarks that convey a green light to the enemies of the regime."
At the same time, government officials have responded in public to defend their record and that of Ahmadinejad's administration.
For example, Iran's central bank issued a statement in which it said that some of the candidates had fed the media with information that is "completely fabricated and miles away from reality." It continues, "For example, they have told the media that the government owes $500 billion Toman (about $170 million) to the central bank, while the outstanding loans and other debts to all banks in the country is a much smaller figure."
Mehdi Ghazanfari, president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's the minister of trade, who has been repeatedly summoned to the Majlis for mismanagement of the ministry, told Iran news network that image the presidential candidates present were not realistic. He speculated that comprehensive and accurate figures presented "enthusiasm for the elections would rise and more professionals would step in."
Seyed Mohammad Javad Abtahi, a pro-administration Majlis deputy told IRNA news agency, "Reviewing the government's performance is a normal activity during elections. But what stands out in the campaigns of some of the candidates in the eleventh presidential election is an unusual questioning of the current government and appears more like a charade. The candidates should know that their type of campaigning will only bring hopelessness and despair to the voters. They should also note that Ahmadinejad is not in a position to defend himself. It would be better if the candidates focused on presenting their programs."
Ahmadinejad has stayed away from the attacks by the candidates. According to Fars news agency, he remained silent when a reporter asked about the candidates' attacks. Interestingly, Alef website affiliated with conservative Ahmad Tavakoli, wrote that Ahmadinejad's silence was because of "shock" he had received over the disqualification of his candidate and the non-intervention of the supreme leader to overrule that. It wrote, "An Alef reporter has learned that the president made serious efforts to get an over-ruling [of the Guardian Council by the supreme leader] but failed. He did not believe this would be the response."
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