Iran presidential election TV debate fails to inspire

TEHERAN (AFP) - Candidates in Iran's June 14 presidential election all agree that rampant inflation is the most pressing problem, but commentators on Saturday bemoaned that in a first television debate none proposed real solutions.

Press commentators accepted the complaints of several candidates that the Friday debate's format, which gave little scope for real discussion of issues, had not helped them present their policies.

But with inflation topping 30 per cent after a 70 per cent fall in the value of the rial against the dollar sent the cost of imports soaring, editorial writers, analysts and ordinary viewers agreed that the presidential hopefuls needed to set out more substantial policies.

The final eight candidates were approved by the Guardians Council, Iran's unelected electoral watchdog, from 686 who registered to stand.

No women candidates were approved, and the disqualifications included moderate ex-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's close ally Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie.

Constitutionally, Ahmadinejad himself cannot stand for a third consecutive term.

"The candidates all said they were going to resolve the problem of inflation but none of them explained how they were going to do it," complained one viewer interviewed by state television.

Economist Hossein Raghfar told the reformist Aftab newspaper that none of the eight appeared to have established economic policies.

"It had been expected that each candidate would present his own solutions to control inflation, unemployment or support for domestic production, but none of them showed a clear solution which means they did not have an established plan," said Raghfar.

"In such circumstances, we cannot expect an improvement in the situation in the country." Analyst Mohammad Saleh Sedghian agreed.

"There was no debate on their various economic policies, and this would not give the electorate a clear idea of each candidate's economic plans," he said.