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Heated Clash Marks Second Televised Debate in Iran’s Sham Presidential Election

The second televised debate for the Iranian regime’s presidential election, which took place on June 28, was marked by intense confrontations among the six main candidates, each vying for dominance in the tightly controlled political landscape.

During the debate, Alireza Zakani targeted former President Hassan Rouhani, calling his presidency “eight black years” and accused Rouhani’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif of exacerbating Iran’s problems. Zakani also aimed at Masoud Pezeshkian, alleging that he was part of the flawed system.

Pezeshkian defended himself by stating that he served under Mohammad Khatami, not Rouhani, and reiterated his commitment to Khamenei’s policies, making it clear that any deviation from these policies would be his “red line.” He stated, “Anyone who does not align with the Supreme Leader’s overarching policies and refuses to implement them becomes a red line.”

Mostafa Pourmohammadi, while criticizing Zakani, brought up the controversial Tehran municipality contract with China, suggesting mishandling. Pourmohammadi admitted to internal disputes and highlighted resistance to implementing the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) under Rouhani’s administration.

Amir Hossein Qazizadeh Hashemi aligned himself with the current administration, criticizing Pezeshkian and Pourmohammadi for their connections to Rouhani’s government. He boldly stated his intention to continue the “unfinished work of Martyr Raisi” and challenged the other candidates to admit if they aimed to continue Rouhani’s policies. He stated, “I want to continue the ‘half-finished government of Martyr Raisi’. Do you have the courage to admit you want to continue Rouhani’s third government?”

Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf proposed building a wall along Iran’s eastern borders to address social issues related to illegal immigration. He linked his proposal to his experience as the former police chief, stressing the societal impact of unauthorized immigrants on issues such as drug trafficking and employment.

Throughout the debate, the impact of sanctions on Iran’s economy remained a central theme. Candidates from both major political factions criticized the foreign policies of the Rouhani and Raisi administrations. In one exchange, Pezeshkian admitted, “We have exhausted the people,” to which Zakani retorted, “You did.”

Meanwhile, Hassan Rouhani, the former president, demanded airtime on state television to respond to “allegations” against him. In a meeting with his former ministers and deputies, Rouhani criticized the Guardian Council, claiming that “the role of at least two candidates in the debates is to insult and slander.”

Clash at Political Round Table: Advisor Storms Off Stage

In a separate televised political round table, a fierce argument broke out between Masoud Pezeshkian’s advisor, Mohammad Fazeli, and Shahab Esfandiari, a government-recognized expert. The clash culminated in Fazeli storming off the stage, visibly agitated.

The confrontation began when Fazeli accused Esfandiari of lying, to which Esfandiari fired back by questioning Fazeli’s credentials. The exchange quickly escalated:

“Please, Mr. Esfandiari, you are lying as the university president and you are lying too,” Fazeli charged. Esfandiari countered, “Were you a contract employee? How did you get your position or permit?” Fazeli responded, “I was a contract employee with authorization from the university board.” Esfandiari pressed, “Did the university president know this?” Fazeli confirmed, “Yes, but the president was unaware, with authorization from the university board.”

As the argument grew more heated, the moderator attempted to intervene by cutting Esfandiari’s microphone. Despite this, Fazeli, frustrated and furious, threw his microphone and left the stage, prompting Esfandiari to mock him, “You made headlines for this action.”

Pezeshkian tried to restore order, commenting, “This behavior shows we still have cultural issues.”

Other officials also weighed in on the escalating political tensions. Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi claimed that voter participation was increasing, while Judiciary Chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei warned that neglecting the elections could harm national security, emphasizing that widespread participation could change the situation.

Mohammad Saeidi, Khamenei’s representative in Qom, stressed the importance of voter turnout to “neutralize conspiracies.” He noted that while many people appreciated Raisi’s efforts, some were critical of his three-year tenure, aligning with American, Israeli, and enemy lines.