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Wednesday
Jun052013

Iran Special: The 2nd Presidential Debate

Photo: Mehdi Dehghan/AP


We stopped live coverage at the end of the first half of the debate.

Radio Free Europe offers this live summary of the second half.

Links to Persian transcripts of the debate from ISNA and Mehr News.

Live Coverage of the 2nd Presidential debate on Wednesday, covering society and culture:

1343 GMT: Rouhani challenges Jalili --- Calls for engagement and not rhetoric re enemy and Zionists --- Says current approach leads to brain drain

Qalibaf --- Call to see society as mature, livnig thing and not naive child. If you cause harm to society, it will react. Society will lack coherence, e.g., on economy and social problems.

Rezaei talks about poverty, bad statesman behavior,and mismanagement.

Aref: Need to protect culture to "inoculate and vaccinate" anti foreign channels --- Govt should serve and not just be responsible for culture.

Jalili: rambling --- Claims that can make capacity of TV series with large audiences.

1335 GMT: Jalili: America uses culture --- like through the movie Argo. Jalili talks about "cultural justice" which he says includes money for building mosques. Government and especially president must have this precise understanding, and that's why the President must be a religious figure under the Constitution.

1333 GMT: Saeed Jalili steps up to the podium. He says that: "Culture is like breathing. When you think about things like traffic regulations, that is a way to achieve results through regulations but you can also achieve results through culture. Regarding the nuclear issue we need to hvae a precise understanding of nature of our cultre to avoid making mistakes and undermining our capacities."

1329 GMT: Haddad Adel --- Iranian culture in the region has been influential through its sublime concepts. A Turkish expert told me that Iranian culture in the world of Islam is like that of Greece in Europe.

1328 GMT: Rouhani is warned to stick to his time allocation. He asks Haddad Adel about literature --- "what is your proposal for more activity on literature".

1321 GMT: Haddad Adel waxes poetic --- "Culture is a waterfall" and "Culture is a source of life"

1319 GMT: Gholam Ali Haddad Adel --- prominent MP, relative of the Supreme Leader, and professor of philosophy --- takes the podium. He issues declarations like, "Culture is the spirit of the body of society and its identity."

1310GMT: Rouhani goes into extra time to slam the government for its treatment of students and academics, and says that some university professors have been fired over the past 10 years and harsh restrictions imposed on students.

1305 GMT: "Independent" candidate Mohammad Gharazi, the least-prominent of the eight men, takes the podium.

Gharazi does not offer much beyond the reiteration --- from Rohani and Aref --- that "culture belongs to the people".

That sparks a fight-back from Haddad Adel, who tries to present people protecting their culture and beliefs by supporting the Revolution led by Imam Khomeini --- in other words, the claim that the system brought convergence between the people and their leaders.

1250 GMT: Qalibaf makes a general call for "generation of wealth" through culture, while maintaining "dignity": "We are not a capitalist society....We believe under Divine guidance we protect human freedom and dignity."

Other candidates criticise Qalibaf --- justifiably, in my view --- for vagueness.

The surreal criticism comes from Haddad Adel: "Art is like a vegetable. If it is on the table, people will eat. But if it is not on the table, people won't starve."

Qalibaf's response talks about "culture as an important basis for manpower, mosques are even more important than oil and gas". He wanders to his position as Mayor of Tehran, "If I tell the people the sidewalks will be mended, they will be mended."

1249 GMT: Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf takes the podium.

Rouhani responds to Saeed Jalili:

Even as he starts speaking, the Rohani campaign tries to keep the initiative on social media:

1231 GMT: The Supreme Leader's senior advisor Ali Akbar Velayati takes the podium. He puts his emphasis on the strength of the family and the educational system.

The sharpest response comes from Mohsen Rezaei, who says the greatest threat to the family is the state of Iran's economy.

Aref follows with a challenge that the society is undermined by censorship of the Internet which --- echoing an earlier statement by Rohani --- prevents "great cultural work".

Velayati responds with an appeal to "morality" and, in a shift of direction, to the "resistance economy" promoted by the Supreme Leader.

1226 GMT: Not sure about this challenge from Mohammad Baqer-Qalibaf: "Lies are worse than poverty."

Aref, replying to criticism, once again sounds like Rouhani: "Government must provide infrastructure and people must take care of culture....An artist must have the chance of creating artistic work."

1216 GMT: The Rouhani campaign immediately declares support for its views from the reformist Aref: "Just like Rouhani said, activities in cultre and art are a right."

Rouhani backs this up in his response to Aref, "We should leave culture in the hands of the people....Police should be left in last place."

The campaign tweets within seconds:

1216 GMT: Outlining his approach, reformist Mohammad Reza Aref sees an opening: he begins by congratulating Iran's national football team on Tuesday's victory over Qatar in a World Cup qualifying match.

Aref also calls for a "cultural and popular Revolution", based on "social domains" rather than Government oversight, with those involved in cultural activity "taking care of cultural issues": "We must trust them. We can't just appoint prominent officials."

Illustrating his criticism, Aref challenges the shutting down of newspapers and Iran's House of Cinema.

Saeed Jalili tries to block the alliance between Rouhani's and Aref's views on censorship and the Government: "Culture is an opportunity but has features of purity."

1211 GMT: The strongest challenge to Rouhani comes from leading MP Haddad Adel, who says that censorship is necessary to preserve "moral values" and claims that Rohani's criticism of the Government deflects from this.

Rouhani responds, "Cultural organisations should run things themselves. Is culture something that government can produce single-handedly."

He continues, "If freedom is given, then we can tackle corruption."

1159 GMT: Hassan Rouhani presents his case, calling for "decentralisation" of culture while attacking the Government for "trial by media to raise allegations": "When moral values are gone, you lose public trust."

Rouhani blames this for problems from cheque fraud to drug addiction to a high divorce rate.

The Rouhani campaign backs up its candidate on Twitter:

Saeed Jalili's campaign responds: "Culture is not something that is apart from other matters -- it is all part of the atmosphere."

1151 GMT: The responses to Mohsen Rezaei's opening statement continue. Saeed Jalili declares, "If there is a 'right' atmosphere to culture, we can settle many issues that affect people."

Ali Akbar Velayati calls for "valuable efforts to revitalise Islamic and Iranian culture, with a profound approach". Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, criticising that Rezaei did not talk about cultural plans but went straight into economic issues, asks, "If cultural problems stem from poverty, how can piety maintain morals?"

The strongest challenge comes from Hassan Rouhani, however. Saying that "cultural atmosphere needs security", he calls for an end to unnecessary censorship "so that cultural people can have more innovation: "Without security --- no innovation, so no new ideas to turn art into cultural products."

Rouhani then attacks the Ahmadinejad Government, "Religious beliefs have faced an onslaught in recent years, as officals undermined them. Superstitiion has been spread in name of religion, with bad management blamed on the Hidden Imam."

Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf follows with a general statement that "economy and politics must be influenced by culture".

1135 GMT: The second debate among the eight candidate, on society and culture, starts with a hadith on the Prophet warning that poverty turns into atheism.

Mohsen Rezaei, the first candidate to make his case, warns that poverty is "causing our youth to move towards addiction".He is "shocked to hear news of a young girl begging on street. I feel ashamed."

He declares a threat to the Islamic establishment and says the faith of youth must not be undermined, with the tackling of unemployment and poverty.

Rezaei also calls for "cultural officials" to handle cultural issues, suggesting that the Government has failed to do so.

Other candidates criticise Rezaei for not putting forward a programme to deal with the problems.

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