Sunday, June 7, 2009

Presidential Debates: Ahmadinejad vs. Karrubi (Looser: Islamic Republic)

Long anticipated debate between Karrubi and Ahmadinejad over the economy and political freedom turned out to be the biggest disappointment in the series of debates among the four presidential contenders. The faceoff on Saturday was a battle between two of the most powerful political figures in Islamic Republic over who was the most corrupt politician between the two. Ahmadinejad accused Karrubi of accepting $300,000 in bribes from Shahram Jazayeri, a shadowy figure involved in a number of recent financial scandals, who is spending time in prison now. Karrubi accused Ahmadinejad of attempting to wire $7 billion to a foreign head of state only to be stopped by the Central Bank and the leader.

Karrubi started the debate by concentrating his attacks over Ahmadinejad’s superstitions and later brought up the financial and corruption issues. At no time during the debate did he mention his well-publicized platforms on distribution of oil wealth, freedom of press and assembly and his concrete opposition to current administration’s policies. He looked utterly unprepared and lost during the debate.

Ahmadinejad from the beginning focused on Karrubi’s alleged corrupt character. He asked the former Majlis speaker where he got the money to purchase his lavish home in a most expensive neighborhood of Tehran, in contrast to his modest house in a poor neighborhood at the start of revolution. He asked him where he got the money to pay for his plan to spend $2 million in SMS messages to be sent out as part of his current presidential campaign, and finally he accused him of the $300,000 bribe from Jazayeri.

The real looser in the debate seemed to be the Islamic Republic itself. For the past several nights, some of the most powerful men in the country have accused each other of high corruption. The Iranian people will undoubtedly take note of the corruption levels penetrating the highest strata of the regime.

The four candidates running for president did not just volunteer to run. Their “impeccable” credentials were checked and approved by the Guardian Council. They were chosen as the four most honest loyalists to the ideals of Islamic revolution out of a list of nearly 500 candidates. If this is the best the Islamic Republic has to offer, then indeed the continued legitimacy of the government has been tarnished during these debates.

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