Why Did VP Jahangiri Seesaw in Presidential Debates?

07 May 2017 | 22:37 Code : 1968857 General category
Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri appeared as the superstar of the first presidential debate but failed to realize expectations in the second. Here is why.
Why Did VP Jahangiri Seesaw in Presidential Debates?

From the beginning of the presidential competition, Vice President and electoral contender Eshaq Jahangiri has run in lieu of the Reformist front as a ‘cover candidate’ in order to support President Hassan Rouhani during the campaigns and debates. After his impressive performance in the first debate, rumors began having him as the ultimate contender, with Rouhani withdrawing in his favor.


Jahangiri, a veteran politician of the Rouhani administration, arrived in the Interior Ministry in the last-minute attempt to sign up as a presidential candidate, opening a new chapter in the election. But now he is seen as potent, serious candidate in the presidential race.


The Solid Start of the Cover Candidate


Although many observers would find Jahangiri’s candidacy in the presidential race as a bid to back President Hassan Rouhani, labeling it a ‘cover candidacy’, the Vice President’s appropriately powerful approach during the first presidential debate made him the phenomenon of the race. This was evident in polls that saw Jahangiri’s votes skyrocket.


During the debate, Jahangiri introduced himself as a representative of the Reformist front, purporting to want to remain in the race until the very end. Even though most pundits find it a bluff, some are inclined to use the situation to push Jahangiri further into the race.


Jahangiri’s solid performance in the first debate persuaded the Reformists to establish campaign headquarters for him. The VP appointed his fellow townsman and member of the Executives of Construction Party, Hossein Mar’ashi, as the head of his campaign headquarters.


Danger felt


Following his successful appearance in the first debate, some Reformist figures and Principlist analysts welcomed his role as a real candidate. However, a group of decision-makers in the Moderate-Reformist camp found the increasing welcome for the Vice President a sign of danger and undertook to change the course of events: The president was ought to take part more seriously in issues brought up during the debates, appearing as the candidate who uttered the key points.


The strategy turned Eshaq Jahangiri from an attentive, sharp-witted man who opposed rival candidates by listing precise facts and figures in the first debate into a reticent participant in the second debate, who read prewritten statements in response to criticisms posed by the rival.


According to unverified reports, despite the fact that Hassan Rouhani appeared more successful in answering the questions and challenging his rivals during the second debate, some pro-Rouhani political activists are cynical of the approach that has turned Jahangiri into a neutral participant, giving the lead in debates to the rivals. Principlist candidates Raisi, Qalibaf, and Mirsalim have a coordinated critical approach toward the administration, where by backing each other, they have managed to bring up their criticisms and challenge the Rouhani administration.


The VP’s Response


It may explain why Jahangiri published two successive post on his Twitter account, with one noting that there is still time to go before the presidential race. “The third debate will determine the winning side,” he tweeted. As if aware that he and Hassan Rouhani had lost in the Friday debate, he wrote: “We are still in the middle of the course. We’ll see which side has plans to discuss. Wait, as there is time left before the election. Wait, and you’ll see a shift in the third debate”.


Critical is the decision Jahangiri is going to adopt at a time all the Reformists are stressing efforts to help Hassan Rouhani win the race. Will he withdraw in favor of Rouhani or will he prefer to remain and compete?


In an interview with Tabnak, Reformist politician Darioush Ghanbari said there is no doubt Jahangiri will spare no effort to provide support for Hassan Rouhani during the race. “Rouhani is now the only choice for the Reformists and moderates and Jahangiri has come to help. He has become involved in the best way possible,” Ghanbari added. However, Ghanbari reiterated that elections are not predictable and we should wait to see how the Reformists would decide in the end.


On the other hand, Principlist figure and member of the Combatant Clergy Association Ahmad Salek has told Tabnak that Jahangiri enjoys higher popularity in comparison with Rouhani. “The Reformists will doubtlessly opt for Jahangiri if they feel that Rouhani does not a significant voter base,” Salek said.


“Jahangiri proved, particularly in the first debate, that he is more informed about the accomplishments of the administration and issues of the country and thus is a better option to compete in the race than Rouhani,” he added.


He went on to say that we should wait to see how the election would go: “Whether Rouhani has it or the Principlist front could create a situation in which Jahangiri will choose to remain in the race”.


* This is a translation of Tabnak article originally published in Persian.

tags: Eshagh Jahangiri Iran presidential election presidential debate

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