Iran’s presidential hopefuls will spar in their third and final televised debate on Friday, just seven days out from the election. The contest has developed into a three-way race between incumbent President Hassan Rouhani and conservatives Ebrahim Raisi, a high-profile cleric, and Mohammad Ghalibaf, the mayor of Tehran.
In the last debate Raisi and Ghalibaf attacked Rouhani for failing to leverage the 2015 nuclear deal to deliver tangible benefits to Iranians. Despite this, all six presidential candidates now say they will maintain the deal—a substantial shift from the line previously towed by hard-liners.
For his part, Rouhani has urged supporters to “reject those whose main decisions have only been executions and imprisonments”—a veiled attack on Ghalibaf, the country’s former police chief, and Raisi, who sat on a panel that sent thousands of counter-revolutionaries to their deaths in 1988.
Opinion polls show President Rouhani with a substantial lead over his two challengers. However, if the conservative vote rallies around either Raisi or Ghalibaf—perhaps if one of these men drops out of the race in the next week—May 19 could very well bring change in Tehran.
Simon is the founder of Foreign Brief who served as managing director from 2015 to 2021. A lawyer by training, Simon has worked as an analyst and adviser in the private sector and government. Simon’s desire to help clients understand global developments in a contextualised way underpinned the establishment of Foreign Brief. This aspiration remains the organisation’s driving principle.