President Rouhani pushes back over allegations of Government corruption and mismanagement
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has filed an official complaint against hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi, one of two leading challengers in the May 19 election.
In Friday’s second debate, Raisi alleged that the Government had plundered the Education Ministry’s Reserve Fund.
With the economy the main issue in the campaign, the President used Friday’s debate to push back on allegations of corruption and mismanagement by Raisi and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf. He said the latter’s accusations on prominent billboards across Tehran also violated campaign rules.
Taking his offensive farther as he promoted the July 2015 nuclear deal, Rouhani publicly challenged the Revolutionary Guards. He said Iran’s ballistic missile tests after the implementation of the nuclear deal had been counter-productive, and he specifically denounced the firing of missiles with provocative slogans pointing to the destruction of Israel.
Raisi defended his allegations on Saturday, saying that he only upheld the rights of the Education Ministry staff. He claimed he had evidence proving the Government’s diversion of funds and pledged that he would not “give up”.
The cleric, who is custodian of the billion-dollar religious foundation Astan Quds Razavi, is backed by the Supreme Leader’s office but has struggled to engage the public. That has opened up space for Qalibaf, who has been dogged by allegations of corruption and mismanagement symbolized by the deadly fire at the iconic Plasco building in January.
Polls show Rouhani with a big lead over both men, although short of the majority needed for a first-round victory.
TOP PHOTO: Cleric Ebrahim Raisi and President Hassan Rouhani
Supreme Leader Slams UN “Education Agenda” in Another Swipe at Rouhani
In another challenge to President Rouhani as well as the international community, the Supreme Leader has said that Iran will never submit to the “education agenda” of the UN body UNESCO.
“Why should a so-called International body — which is definitely infiltrated by the superpowers — have the right to make decisions for the nations of the world with various cultures?” Ayatollah Khamenei said to teachers and university students in Tehran on Sunday.
Khamenei said the Islamic Republic will not “surrender”t o UNESCO’s Global Education 2030 Agenda: “This is wrong per se. That we sign an agenda and begin to carry it out secretly is wrong. It is not permitted at all. I have declared it.”
Documents such as UNESCO’s Global Education Agenda 2030 are not something the Islamic Republic would shoulder or abide by.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) May 7, 2017
He aimed at his own officials:
I am disappointed at the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution. They should have taken care of it and prevented it from getting to where it is now, so that I would not have needed to take action to stop it. It is the Islamic Republic here.
While Khamenei said he was not advising people to vote for a particular Presidential candidate on May 19, his denunciation of international education is an implicit challenge to Rouhani, who has promoted an expansive approach to Iranian education with interaction and dialogue with the UN and other international bodies.
Rouhani has met the UNESCO Director-General Irina Bukova on several occasions, using the meetings to promote cultural heritage, education and the “promotion of tolerance”, and his “World Against Violence and Extremism”.
While maintaining his official position of neutrality, Khamenei has sniped at Rouhani throughout the campaign, particularly through his injunction to all candidates to “promise” not to “rely on foreign powers”, a pushback of Rouhani’s foreign policy of engagement linked to Iranian economy recovery.
At the moment, the pressure appears unlikely to stop Rouhani in a fair election — the chosen candidate of the Supreme Leader’s office, Ebrahim Raisi, is struggling to energize voters. Instead, the Supreme Leader’s approach could be to ensure that the President is contained in both domestic and foreign policy after any victory.