Analysis by PMOI/MEK
Iran, June 9, 2021—The second round of presidential debate, held on Tuesday, turned out to be another farce that ended up doing more damage to the Iranian regime than maintain its façade of democracy. The candidates were thoroughly vetted for their loyalty to the mullahs’ rule and being instructed by the Guardian Council to steer clear from the regime’s red lines, namely the violent history of Ebrahim Raisi, the preferred candidate of regime supreme leader Ali Khamenei.
Nonetheless, the debate turned out to portray a clear picture of the corruption of the regime, the disarray within its ranks, and its fear of the people’s ire.
Members of the regime’s own parliament, the Majlis, described the debate as a “cursing match” and the regime’s media mocked the entire show, describing it as “an intelligence contest,” “government employment test,” “a show of accusation and deception,” and calling the candidates, “schoolchildren that were not ready for the competition.”
Even the presidential candidates themselves made light of the debate, each other, and by extension the entire regime.
“Showing off, showmanship, and engaging in fringe subjects will not draw the attention of others,” presidential candidate Alireza Zakani said at one point. And at another point, he admitted, “Only in the election season do we think about women, the poor, and unprivileged, and the porters.”
Mohsen Mehralizadeh said, “The people are saying that these are all like the previous ones. They make some promises and leave.”
Mohsen Rezaii, a former Revolutionary Guards commander, addressed the people and said, “Your problems will not be solved with cheap words and magic tricks.”
Abdolnaser Hemmati, the former head of the Central Bank, said, “Sixty percent of the youth are saying we won’t vote.”
Regime officials watching the debate expressed their dismay at the zero contribution the show made to legitimizing the regime’s image and election process. “The second debate was worse than the first. It was so bad that even the candidates objected,” Information and Communications Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi said.
One of the key highlights of the debate was the candidates’ confession to the rampant corruption in the regime. In their rivalries, the candidates revealed even more of the corruption that plagues the entire regime.
In a jab to the Revolutionary Guards, Hemmati said, “Corrupt groups and rent seekers have seized the economy and the society’s culture. They have expansive connections in imports and exports as well as money launderers and smugglers.”
Meanwhile, Zakani, who is closely tied to the IRGC, criticized the government, saying, “The establishment’s officials have turned into nobility. They have seized control of the economy for three decades.”
Zakani also directed his ire directly at the government of Hassan Rouhani and said, “Twenty six spies were caught in Rouhani’s government, which is supposedly the most security-focused government in history.”
And then, he returned the favor to Hemmati, saying, “Under Mr. Hemmati’s watch, 12 trillion rials were illegally transferred from a government bank to a private bank.”
Hemmati retorted, “Every year, the merchants of sanctions make $16 billion in profits,” a clear reference to the IRGC’s network of smuggling and illegal import-exports.
Meanwhile, Rezaii said, “$137 billion in government funds have been channeled into the pockets of special people.”
Tumultuous times ahead
The second presidential debate provided just a glimpse of the regime’s corruption. And of course, such an outcome was not unexpected. Some regime officials are admitting that the regime doesn’t have the capacity of elections, formal as they are. Recently, IRGC officer Hassan Abbasi lamented why the regime is bringing on all the troubles of elections onto itself while many countries don’t have elections at all.
The regime knows full well that the travesty of election and all its peripherals will only make things worse. And yet, it cannot do without it because it needs this farce to legitimize its tyrannical rule. But this time around, the people have more than a few reasons to express their rage as they did during the January 2018 and November 2019 nationwide protests. And the regime’s own presidential candidates are just adding to those reasons with every remark they utter.