President Hassan Rouhani stepped up his game in the second televised debate (IranWire). The moment the debate on “political and cultural matters” commenced, the president came out swinging. The hardline candidates—cleric Ebrahim Raisi, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, and former minister Mostafa Mirsalim—challenged Rouhani over the lack of economic improvement since the nuclear deal. Continuing to defend the president, Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri said, “Dear people of Iran, what do you want? Do you want limitations or more freedom? Do you want international tension or peace? Isolation or integrity? By casting your vote you will determine Iran's path.” The most controversial issue during the debate was the Iran Deal (Al-Monitor). While hardliners criticized the nuclear deal in the past, all candidates vowed to protect and stay committed to “the national accord”. Rouhani also said the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) tried to sabotage the nuclear deal, a rare public criticism of their conduct (The Guardian). “They wrote messages on the missiles so that we won’t be able to reap its benefits,” he said, mentioning the testing of two ballistic missiles in March 2016, months after sanctions were lifted. On the missiles had a message in Hebew: “Israel must vanish from the page of time.” The third and final debate is today, May 12.
President Rouhani defied critics by sounding like an opposition leader (Bloomberg). During a campaign speech in Hamadan, Rouhani said he was running for president to “tell the extremists and those who use violence” that their era is over, in apparent reference to former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Rouhani then added, “We want freedom. Your rationale is one of just banning things,” alluding to his rivals who oppose greater civil liberties. Hours later, at a campaign rally in Orumiyeh, Rouhani also took a swipe at hardline presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi. “The people will say ‘no’ to those who over the course of 38 years only executed and jailed,” Rouhani said. “Those of you who cut out tongues and sewed mouths shut. Those of you who over the past years only issued the word ‘ban,’ banned the pen and banned the picture. Please don’t even breathe the word freedom for it shames freedom.”
Here are the latest polls from the Iranian Student Polling Agency:
Hassan Rouhani 41.6 percent
Ebrahim Raisi 26.7 percent
Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf 24.6 percent
The other candidates polled below 5 percent
Here are the latest polls from the iPPO Group:
Rouhani around 67 percent
Raisi 20 percent
Ghalibaf 20 percent
The IRGC and Basij are taking steps to promote the candidacy of hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi (Reuters). Media outlets affiliated with the IRGC have been criticizing Rouhani's performance and will likely to use their street muscle to rally Raisi supporters.
Iranian state media censored a documentary released by Rouhani's campaign (AP). The censored segmented showed supporters chanting for Green Movement leader Mir Hossein Mousavi, who has been under house arrest since 2011. A picture of former president Mohammad Khatami was also removed. Khatami’s name and image have been banned since 2015 due to his support of the Green Movement leaders.
Meanwhile, a reformist journalist said hardliners are working to sabotage Rouhani campaign with intimidation tactics (CHRI). Here are some examples: several Rouhani billboards have been defaced and at two campaign headquarters were attacked (Twitter).
Rouhani staff repeatedly blocked from campaigning in north Tehran weeks before elections (CHRI).
Interestingly, the Canadian government will not allow Iran to set up polling stations for Iranians to vote in upcoming presidential election (The Globe and Mail). The denied request was put forth by Tehran’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York and Iranian-Canadians. According to Canadian law, foreign countries must set up polling stations at their embassies and consulates, which Iran has not had in Canada since 2012. The Iranian foreign minister urged Canada to facilitate Iranian expats’ participation in polls (PressTV).
Canadian officials made first visit to Tehran since the Canadian embassy’s closure in 2012 (CBC). According to an anonymous source, the officials are in Iran to advocate for Canadians caught up in the country’s legal system and make recommendations for the improvement of Iran’s human rights record. The visit is also a sign that Canada is “committed to re-engaging” with Tehran, although no major breakthrough is expected in reopening either nation’s embassy.
Learn more: Iranian-Americans can vote at the following polling stations in over a dozen states.
Do Iranian elections conform to international standards? (IranWire)
Harsh anti-Iran rhetoric could undermine Hassan Rouhani’s reelection bid and undermine the historic nuclear deal (The Nation).
Raisi gains support—but should Rouhani be worried? (IranWire)
Online freedoms in Iran ahead of the presidential elections (Article19).
Presidential election breakdown:
May 12: Third and final presidential debate (2:30 pm GMT, watch it here)
Now–May 17: Campaigning
May 19: Election
May 26: Second round of election if no candidate secures a majority