Iran Election Guide

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Iran Analysis: Presidential Election --- It's About "Management" & The Economy 

Joanna Paraszczuk and Scott Lucas write:

With the exclusion of leading politicians, such as former Presidential Hashemi Rafsanjani from the Presidential race, a leading theme in media converage is that the election is now merely a contest of "shades of gray" between supporters of the Supreme Leader.

That headline, while it has an element of truth, is a reduction of the contest and Iran's internal situation for two reasons.

First, the economic issue --- and not nuclear talks with the West or other foreign policy issues --- is likely to be the dominant concern of Iranian voters.

Second, while each of the eight approved candidates can find security in criticism of the Ahmadinejad Government, each has to prove that he will be able to remedy the economic problems --- from rampant inflation to falling production to unemployment to currency difficulties --- that plague the Islamic Republic.

So it is no surprise that those emerging as the front-runners --- Supreme National Security Council secretary Saeed Jalili, the Supreme Leader's advisor Ali Akbar Velayati, and Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf --- are emphasising their competence and experience as managers who can handle the economy.

In a televised address on Sunday, Jalili said that Iran's economy is a "field of threats and opportunities". He referred to existing economic policies, including Ahmadinejad's centrepiece of subsidy reforms, and said the next head of Government must "explain his administrative plans for implementing these".

Jalili continued, "The President must pay attention to several essential issues. Inflation, for example, is a very important issue, as is the matter of employment."

Candidates are also emphasising that their proposed administrations will include economic experts. Earlier this week, Jalili announced on Twitter that he will soon hold a conference, with his team including prominent economist Professor Massoud Derakhshan, who founded the Economics faculty at Imam Sadegh University and previously lectured at Oxford.

Jalili has also said the Iranian administration is managed us is "one of the essential issues" and has proposed changes to streamline it and to make it more efficient.

Like Jalili, Ali Velayati has asserted that he has skilled economists in his campaign team. Speaking at a mosque on Saturday, Velayati said that he put Mohammad Nahavandian, the head of Iran's Chamber of Commerce, in charge of a short-term plan to tackle Iran's rampant inflation.

Velayati reinforced the point by saying that politicians and leaders should consult with economists regarding their plans.

However, even as they emphasize management, however, the candidates have offered little detail on actual policies.

Jalili has only said, albeit at great length, that he would introduce a new organizational structure to manage existing plans. Velayati has offered even less in detail.

That relative silence is not due to the headline allegiance to the Supreme Leader but to the issue that lies over and beyond this election. Facing a sharp drop in oil revenues, other pressures from sanctions, and long-term problems in economic structure and development --- compounded, rather than solved, by Ahmadinejad's centrepiece of subsidy cuts --- Tehran has few good options to deal with problems which are now endemic.

Six months from now, it is those difficulties facing the new Government --- regardless of who leads it --- that will be the main concern of Iranians.

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