Iran bans live election debates, warns candidates not to ‘blacken’ country’s image

TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s interior ministry says Thursday there will be no live debates in the run-up to next month’s presidential election.

“Based on a decision by the Election Campaign Monitoring Commission, the election debates of the candidates will be broadcast pre-recorded,” says ministry spokesman Seyed Salman Samani.

The commission also releases guidelines for the debates, telling candidates they are not allowed to “blacken the image of the country…or the actions of the executive, administrative, legislative or judicial bodies.”

Live debates have been a hugely popular feature of the last two elections in 2009 and 2013, with many analysts saying President Hassan Rouhani’s performance was key to his surprise victory last time.

The decision appeared to come as a surprise to state broadcaster IRIB, whose deputy head Morteza Mir Bagheri had earlier described the live debates as “the most popular programs” on the station, and the “best way for people to get to know the candidates.”

The heated TV debates in 2009 between hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his reformist opponents fired up the electorate and were seen as partly responsible for the post-election unrest that occurred when Ahmadinejad was re-elected amid allegations of vote-rigging.

— AFP

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