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Jalili, Pezeshkian clash over foreign policy, cultural issues

Mehr News – First debate in 2024 Iran presidential runoff election between presidential contenders former health minister Masoud Pezeshkian and former lead nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili was held on Monday night.

The two candidates vying for the Iranian presidency, Masoud Pezeshkian and Saeed Jalili, square off in the first televised debate in the 2024 Iranian presidential runoff election to present their plans on political and cultural issues.

Updates from the first televised debate in the 2024 Iranian presidential runoff election featuring candidates Masoud Pezeshkian and Saeed Jalili:

At the start of the debate, the presenter explained that there would be 10 topics and questions about the culture and politics to be discussed by the contenders.

The first question was to answer how Jalili and Pezeshkian could encourage people to increase their turnout rate in the runoff as compared to the 40% turnout.

Each candidate had 4 minutes to answer the questions.

Jalili answered the question how to increase people’s turnout and participation in the next elections and said that “the Islamic Establishment is proud to be based on people’s votes.” He added that he has plans to increase people’s participation in decision-making and policy-making. 

Jalili further said that, “If Iran has power, progress, and success, it is the result of people’s participation.”

Pezeshkian, for his part, expressed regret that only 40% turned out to vote in the first round on June 28 elections. “Turnout was low and concerning,” Pezeshkian said.

“The participation that took place (in the June 28 election) is concerning.  It is unacceptable that 60 percent of the people did not come to the polls,” he said.

The two further clashed over the opposite side’s accusations leveled against them over the past few days. 

Both candidates stressed the need for preserving the rights of minorities including ethnic and religious minorities as well as workers and women. 

“You (Pezeshkian) talked about women. Now we have several million women who are heads of households or have poor guardians. They need to be considered in your plan,” Jalili said.

Jalili continued to say, “The environment (at present) is certainly not the one that helps people’s participation. People need to see their issues in these discussions.”

Pezeshkian, in turn, said that there are plans and policies but the policymakers and politicians do not meet their requirements. 

“Some who are the backbone of the Islamic Revolution do not have secure livelihood,” Pezeshkian said.

Pezeshkian further said there are programs and laws but they face problems when they are implemented. “The problem of the poor is us. There are laws and programs that must be implemented,” he added.

Pezeshkian further said that, “If we want to increase participation (of people in elections), they must believe that officials sit at the same table as they do.”

Jalili elsewhere said that, “The problem is that if we ourselves, our campaigns, or those with official responsibilities act unethically in these areas, it is reprehensible and must be stopped.”

 Jalili continued to respond to his opponent, saying that, “Regarding the rights of the Sunni community that you (Pezeshkian) mentioned, all our ethnic groups have rights, whether they vote or not. It is our duty to protect their rights.”

The next question was about cyberspace and the two rivals’ programs for the internet and the speed of the internet.

Pezeshkian further said that, “If we respect people and listen to them, as a manager I no longer have the right to act against the program, the law, and the framework.”

“We must have an ear to listen to the voices of 60 percent who did not come to the polls (in June 28 election),” he said.

Pezeshkian continued to say that, “We must consider all people, including artists, athletes, ethnic groups, and university members (in government plans).”

Pezeshkian also said, “We must treat people with justice and fairness. Otherwise, it is impossible to continue. A country can survive with disbelief, but not with injustice.”

Jalili, in turn, stressed that, “If our young people and students have something to say, their voices must be heard.”

“When we say “the people,” we must allow the people to demand the law. At least let them ask why you are not implementing it,” Pezeshkian said.

The biggest problem is that we talk but do not act, and we are not accountable, Pezeshkian said.

“We must be honest with people, and they should accept that we are sincere. If we are honest with them, they will trust us,” Pezeshkian said.

Pezeshkian explained that, “The entire world imposes internet restrictions during special times, but not during normal times.”

Pezeshkian also said that, “Today people spend more money on VPNs than on the internet itself, and these VPNs don’t have the same restrictions or controls.”

Jalili, in turn, said that, “If we say cyberspace is an opportunity, we need to have a plan for it and clearly tell people what we want to do.”

The next topic the two contenders were asked to discuss was foreign policy and foreign relations. 

Pezeshkian defended former President Hassan Rouhani’s foreign policy in signing the nuclear deal known as the JCPOA and called for intensified efforts to approve the FATF-related bills by Iranian relevant bodies to expand Iran’s trade relations with the world.

He reminded the late Leader Imam Khomeini and the current Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei pursued the policy “Neither East Nor West Iran”, so his government (Pezeshkian) has to expand ties with all countries and should not rely on one side.

“Our main problem in the country is this division. When a government is in power, FATF is opposed, but when the next government takes over, it supports it,” Pezeshkian said, adding that, “If we want to grow in the world, the more connections we make, the better we can live.”

“The skill of the ministry of foreign affairs or foreign policy should have flexibility and various alternatives for negotiations and trade,” Pezeshkian said, adding that, ” Do you know how much we are losing right now because of FATF and JCPOA? We are losing several thousand billion daily. Some people are profiting from sanctions.”

Pezeshkian said that, “We will move forward in foreign policy based on the general policies (proposed by Leader of the Islamic Revolution) of dignity, wisdom, and expediency.”

 Jalili, for his part, said that, “The discussion of foreign policy is an extension of internal discussion. You must definitely have a dynamic, active, and successful foreign policy.”

 Jalili said in response, “If we want to gain benefits from those with whom we have most differences, it will certainly not be achieved.”

 Jalili continued to say that, “They said we will keep the centrifuges spinning and also keep the economy running; but what happened? The IAEA reported 14 times that Iran fulfilled its commitments, but the other side completely withdrew from JCPOA.”

 Jalili also that “Let’s not accuse our own nation and absolve the other side. The (UN nuclear) agency 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.”

 Jalili further said, “We can use disagreements between countries to our advantage. For example, in the export of vegetables from Europe to Russia. Now this has been halted, and we can use it for exporting vegetables to Russia.”

 Jalili continued,  “In (the cases of) FATF and JCPOA today, we are creditors, not debtors.”

 Pezeshkian, in turn, said, “The issue is very clear. Right now, due to lack of oil extraction technology, we are extracting 18 percent of oil from the ground, while in the world it is 48 percent. “

Pezeshkian, “We are currently selling oil cheaply and not even disclosing its price.”

Pezeshkian added, “We have lost our markets worldwide. Qatar is taking away our gas. A country that holds the second largest gas reserves in the world shuts off gas in winters for factories.”
 Pezeshkian continued to say, “During Martyr President Raeisi’s tenure, the number of sanctions reached 1500.”

Pezeshkian further noted, ” Why doesn’t China return our money and mold us into any form it wants? Why doesn’t it execute the 25-year (strategic) contract?”

Jalili also said, “Mr. Pezeshkian, when you say what calamity will befall us, I say that calamity has arrived. We gave away dozens of things, but the other side (US) withdrew from the JCPOA. Today, we are creditors in the JCPOA.”

 Jalili further said, “It’s not an art to owe dozens of things and receive nothing while the other side does not implement anything.”

 Jalili said, “We must definitely remove the tool of sanctions from the hands of the opponent. One way is through dialogue and compelling the opponent to fulfill its commitments.”

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