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IRAN: Raucous Ahmadinejad debate roils presidential race

Photo 243b

Competition in Iran's presidential election reached a boiling point Wednesday night as incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and leading challenger Mir-Hossein Mousavi squared off in an explosive no-holds-barred debate full of ad hominem attacks. 

So venomous were the attacks that the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ordered the candidates to tone it down today, and another powerful cleric, Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, demanded time on television to rebut public allegations made by Ahmadinejad against him.

The aftershocks of the debate continued to roil Iran's political establishment today, a holiday in Iran to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic.

Speaking at Khomeini's south Tehran shrine, his successor Khamenei was adamant and his message clear: Tone it down guys.

"Respectable candidates should pay attention to what they say during their debates, talks and speeches on TV and the media. They must not conduct negative campaign against other candidates.... I myself do not have any objection to candidates having debates, dialogues and discourse, but this should be done on the basis of correct and religious principle. Candidates themselves should know that they should not let their campaigning cause unrest in the country."

Photo 244

Rafsanjani, repeatedly accused of corruption by Ahmadinejad during the debate the previous night and in pro-Ahmadinejad newspapers such as the one above, issued a statement demanding air time to defend himself on state television:

"During the televised debate ... between Mr Ahmadinejad and Mr. Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mr. Ahmadinejad threw constant slanders and lies against Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and his children, which created a doubtful atmosphere for the elections. Since no opportunity existed for defense, we plead that you issue an order, before the time runs out, that a suitable opportunity is given on the same network to respond and make the issue transparent about the defamatory remarks."

The cleric will be delivering Friday prayers in Tehran. Look for him to use the opportunity to criticize  Ahmadinejad's clique, whose members have repeatedly attacked him as a capitalist kingpin in their campaign rhetoric.

Meanwhile, ordinary Iranians are busy assessing the results of the debate between the two main contenders. Here's one particularly astute piece of analysis that came in over the transom, which centered on Ahmadinejad's decision to make an issue of his opponent's wife:

"Ahmadinejad started very well and Mousavi was indeed struggling to find the right words at the outset but I think, as the debate continued, Mousavi became more composed and assured in his remarks. I think the biggest mistake was to pour scorn on Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard. Women will not like the president for this and it only served to enrage Mousavi who delivered a very forceful counterattack, preventing Ahmadinejad from interrupting him, and effectively ending the debate on a winning note." 

-- Borzou Daragahi in Tehran

Photos, from top: A pro-Ahmadinejad campaign poster features a symbol of the atom, a reference to Iran's nuclear program. The front-page of a pro-Ahmadinejad newspaper singles out the family of cleric Hashemi Rafsanjani. Credit: Delphine Minoui / For The Times 

Comments () | Archives (10)

Here is a video of the 4th segment of a film made by Rakhshan bani-etemad. In this film 3 of the 4 candidates are sitting down together and watching a film on Iranian women's demands. They each respond to the film.

film is titled: "We are half of Iran's population"

Ahamdinejad has solid evidences if anyone of that frauds have anything in their sleeves they must vindicate in court.
why they are just sulking around?

As a university student in Iran, I must say there is a great support of Mr. mousavi, which have supported talks to US.
However, I must say not all of these supports are for this viewpoint of Mr. Mousavi.

Since 1800s Iran's clergy are used to have cozy relationships with Britain. This relationship is deep and profound. Both sides so far have done thier best to conceal this issue which at the same time has kept Iran backward in every aspect. The ulama (clergy) at the times of need have always been amiable to the British demands and this is true the other way around. The American problems with Iran can be resolved only when Britain cuts its support for the ulema. Looking at the things through the prism of clerics in Iran Britain has usaully been more conservtive and culturally less threatening thas the US, at least since appearance of TV: And also, British have always been more corrupt who seek their advantages without any moral regards.

Rafsanjani's family has accumulated substantial wealth by using his influence and power, most of that money got to him and his family by favoritism and cronyism. This is money that could help the economy and well being of millions in Iran. In any country where the rule of law applies his affairs would be looked into to say the least and many head would role. Closing of papers and student arrests went on under all previous presidents as well. The intensity of the states various crack downs are the only change between presidents and in different time periods but essentially the same. And Ahmadinejad's claim that he silenced the regime change is pretty credible. Musavi is from the same system as Ahmadinejad and the rest much like Obama is from the same system as Bush and the rest. Ahmadinejad biggest flaw materialized with his questioning of Jewish holocaust and Israel's right to exist on Palestinian land. Because of this he has been made into the symbol of what is wrong in Iran and actually responsible for it when everyone knows very well that he is following orders of those who brought him to power much like Bush was following orders of his rich and powerful constituency. Ahmadinejad's relentless effort of standing up to Bush and the biggest Army on the world and everyone else in that camp by the orders of the Supreme Leader cost Iran a lot of money and took focus away from much else. This is not to defend Ahmadinejad but it is naive to make him the scape goat and expect incredible change in Iran. After all much of this is campaign rhetoric.

Oh, I thought Iran was a dictatorship- thats what the media told me. These kinds of fights only ocurr in a democracy-what gives? Israel says it is "the only democracy in the Middle East" Netanyahu's words as they blithely nullify Arab Palestinian votes in Israel to remain a theocracy. The media told me that Egyptians were "skeptical" of Obama, yet at his speech he got standing ovations and shouts of "we love you". Maybe if US media were not such tendentious liars they would have a greater chance for survival.

in the history of Iran elections those who apeared arogant usually has lost, like the rival between Khatami and Noori, Ahmadinejad alleged somethings that was not related to Mr. Mousavi, and showed an arogant and vain personality, however many knew it before

By By Ahmadi jenjad....

there is a lack of any substantive mention of Iranian women's movement organizing to express their demands in this election. None of the articles in LA times have really mentioned this while it has been such a strong force that the candidates (and especially the reformist candidates) had to publish specific plans for women's rights in Iran.
this is the list of Mousavi's plans in response to the demands of the women's movement (sorry it's in persian):
and Karroubi's statement on this same issue:

I urge LA times to include the women's movement in its coverage of Iran's elections. This movement is THE leader of civil society activism in Iran and one of the main pillars of struggle for democracy. It's the only movement that survived (and in fact grew) during ahmadinejad's administration despite the pressures and clampdown on civil society. Ignoring this force in Iran's society is foolish.

Ahmadinejad's failed suicide attack on mousavi served only to mobilise the silent majority votes in Iran. His attack on his opponent's wife had brought the support of women to mousavi's camp and the attack on other notable political figures would only subtract from his conservative constituency.


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