Final Debates: Iran's 2024 Presidential Election

In the final debates of Iran’s snap presidential election, the two front runners engaged in often feisty arguments about the way forward for the Islamic Republic. The two debates were held on July 1 and 2; each lasted more than two hours. The following are excerpts from the two debates, the first on political and cultural issues and the second on the economy. 


July 1 Debate on Political and Cultural Issues

Masoud Pezeshkian (left) and Saeed Jalili (right)


Saeed Jalili

“We must examine the reasons for the decrease in people's participation (in elections).”


Masoud Pezeshkian

“The turnout that took place (in the June 28 election) is concerning. It is unacceptable that 60 percent of the people did not come to the polls.”

“The problem has to do, partly, with women in our society who are not engaged by us, maybe some ethnic groups that are not engaged by us.”

“When we ignore people's rights and do not want to listen to their voices, expecting them to come to the polls is not a reasonable expectation.”

“When 60 percent of the people do not come to vote, we should feel that there is something wrong. There is a shortcoming.”

“We need to have all the ethnic groups involved (in the government), all the faiths involved.”

“Every day, we are losing are public backing because of how we treat women, because of how we treat the internet because of our filtering. Because of our conduct, people are dissatisfied with us.” 



“The point Mr. Pezeshkian raised is correct. If we expect people to participate, we also need to see them and involve them. In turn, they should feel that they can shape a collective movement with the government.”

“Our workers, our seasonal workers, our construction workers, laborers, they that in these fields, you aren’t making any comments. You speak of women. How many women do we have who do not have any breadwinners in their family, and they are making money themselves? They should be seen in your platform.”



“Your supporters called me a traitor. Am I traitor? I’ve spent all my life (working) for this country.”  

Officials “shouldn’t have two different standards of livelihoods for themselves and the people. They shouldn’t promote nepotism. If they are a member of a particular faith or ethnicity – if they are Kurd, Arab, Sunni – not to give any positions to them? If I am Sunni, and if I have scientific power and capability, then I should have my rights in this country and in my position, whether in universities, schools or employment. If we look at the upper echelons, do we have the same diversity that we have in society?”  

“Some who are the backbone of the Islamic revolution do not have a secure livelihood.”

“We are a group of elites with our own table, and the people have another table.”

“If we want to increase participation (of people in elections), they must believe that officials sit on the same table as they do.”



“As soon as I heard about what they (my supporters) said about Mr. Pezeshkian (being a traitor), I told my campaign people to identify them.”

“Tonight, millions of people are sitting and watching us. They want to see what the problem is. I am very happy that Mr. Pezeshkian pointed out that often the problem is not America, sometimes it is us.”

“Why, when you were in the parliament, which has a monitoring responsibility, see if this plan (the sixth national development plan) was being implemented?”

“Regarding the rights of the Sunni community that you (Pezeshkian) mentioned, all our ethnic groups have rights, whether they vote or not. It is our duty to protect their rights.”

“It is bad behavior that election times turn into transactions where they say you vote, and I will do this. People's rights should not be part of transactions. There should be interaction, not transactions.”



“When those who write the laws, those who should implement them, and those who should oversee them all act against them, this is what happens, and the program is not executed.” 

“What is the use of writing laws if we do not implement them?”

“We must have an ear to listen to the voices of 60 percent who did not come to the polls.”

“We must consider all people, including artists, athletes, ethnic groups, and university members (in government plans).”

“We must treat people with justice and fairness. Otherwise, it is impossible to continue. A country can survive with disbelief, but not with injustice.”



“If our young people and students have something to say, their voices must be heard.”

“We have millions of students asking: "What will become of my job prospects?”



“The biggest problem is that we talk but do not act, and we are not accountable.”

“We easily make agreements and promises but do not act on them.” 

“We must be honest with people, and they should accept that we are sincere. If we are honest with them, they will trust us.”



“Enjoining good and forbidding evil is a lofty matter and it should start with the government and officials.”

“Protest isn't just about taking to the streets. People should be able to say that such and such action is wrong or incomplete and get a response.”



“If there is a system in place with a program, and if the responsible person fails to perform duties, they cannot deny a worker's rights or expel a student just like that.”

“Ninety-nine percent of our managers currently don't even know what the program or law is. Some ministers themselves are not informed at all.”



“One of my beliefs is that a significant portion of opportunities today lies in cyberspace.”

“Today, cyberspace is intertwined with the real world and has come to aid it. Many aspects of convenience and services for people can be developed in this cyberspace.”

“If you want to make good use of cyberspace, it must have appropriate speed.” 

“Our studies show that mobile internet speed can be increased tenfold and fixed internet speed fifty-fold.”



“The entire world imposes internet restrictions during special times, but not during normal times.”

“Today people spend more money on VPNs (virtual private networks) than on the internet itself, and these VPNs don't have the same restrictions or controls.”

“You cannot say we want to live in a cage and have no connection with the world.

“Many people lost their businesses due to (government) actions taken in cyberspace.”



“Foreign platforms can operate (online) in Iran if they act responsibly.”

“The money for content that people produce on internet should be given to the people. This creates jobs and sources of income.”



“We do not believe in a free market for healthcare and education. It is a right of the people.

“Foreign policy should fundamentally prepare the ground for our economists and traders.”



“Being the president (of a country) is different from a university president. When you announce your readiness for presidency, you should have already done your expert work and consolidated various viewpoints.”

“Our point is that what is in the country's best interest cannot be determined through small meetings, lobbying, and informal gatherings.”

“We are not limited and confined to one small group or circle. All of Iran is my home. All people must participate.”



“Our main problem in the country is this division. When a government is in power, FATF* (Financial Action Task Force) is opposed, but when the next government takes over, it supports it.”

*FATF, an intergovernmental body of 38 member countries that sets standards for countering the financing of terrorism and money laundering, has repeatedly cited Iran’s failure to comply with international norms. FATF has called on member states to apply enhanced due diligence measures on transactions involving Iran, such as by closing subsidiaries of Iranian banks or limiting broader business relationships.

“If we want to grow in the world, the more connections we make, the better we can live.”

“We should start with our neighbors and then move forward as much as we can.”

“The skill of the ministry of foreign affairs or foreign policy should have flexibility and various alternatives for negotiations and trade.”

“If we have no other option (but to remain under U.S. sanctions), the existing option will buy from us cheaply and sell to us at a high price, and we cannot do anything about it.”

“(Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu was doing everything to prevent the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or 2015 nuclear deal) from being implemented. We also fought internally to prevent the JCPOA. When you make a deal and negotiate, you give something and get something in return.”

“Do you know how much we are losing right now because of FATF and JCPOA? We are losing several thousand billion daily. Some people are profiteering from sanctions.”



“It is a mistake to limit the world to a few countries when we talk about foreign policy. The world has 200 countries.”

“If we want to gain benefits from those with whom we have most differences, it will certainly not be achieved.”

“They (officials in the government of President Hassan Rouhani) said that we will keep the centrifuges spinning and also keep the economy running; but what happened? The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) reported 14 times that Iran fulfilled its commitments, but the other side completely withdrew from JCPOA.”

“No one in Iran prevented the implementation of the JCPOA.”

“Let's not accuse our own nation and absolve the other side. The (U.N. nuclear watchdog) agency said that Iran fulfilled its commitments, and I say we even went beyond our commitments. But what was the result? They withdrew and (U.S.) sanctions increased from 800 to 1500.”

“We can use disagreements between countries to our advantage. For example, in the export of vegetables from Europe to Russia. Now this has been halted, and we can use it for exporting vegetables to Russia.”

“The spokesperson of the Rouhani government said if FATF is not implemented, we cannot buy vaccines or pay salaries to employees Several years have passed, and we are paying salaries.”

“In (the cases of) FATF and JCPOA today, we are creditors, not debtors.”



“The issue is very clear. Right now, due to lack of oil extraction technology, we are extracting 18 percent of oil from the ground, while in the world it is 48 percent.” 

“We are currently selling oil cheaply and not even disclosing its price.”

“Can someone take away a few oil tankers and return three billion dollars? A lot of money is lost in this path.”

“We have lost our markets worldwide. Qatar is taking away our gas. A country (Iran) that holds the second largest gas reserves in the world shuts off gas in winters for factories.”

“During Martyr President Raisi's tenure, the number of sanctions (on Iran) reached 2500.”

“Why doesn't China return our money and mold us into any form it wants? Why doesn't it execute the 25-year (strategic cooperation) agreement?



“Mr. Pezeshkian, when you say what calamity will befall us, I say that the calamity has arrived. We gave away dozens of things, but the other side (the United States) withdrew from the JCPOA. Today, we are creditors in the JCPOA.”

“It's not an art to owe dozens of things and receive nothing while the other side does not implement anything.”

When former President “Rouhani said if the other side withdraws from the JCPOA, we won't withdraw, that's where diplomacy was not properly executed.”

“I will continue on this path with strength, not with humiliation.”

“We must definitely remove the tool of sanctions from the hands of the opponent. One way is through dialogue and compelling the opponent to fulfill its commitments.”

“However, on the other hand, we should act like Martyr President Raisi and not procrastinate. Both paths must proceed together - lifting sanctions and neutralizing them.”

“More importantly, we must make the opponent regret imposing sanctions.”

“Let's not mock the statement of Martyr (Qassem) Soleimani* who said we can turn threats into opportunities.”

*General Soleimani, the commander of the elite Qods Force, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020.



“The liquidity of the country increased during Martyr President Raisi’s government.”

“We must resolve internal differences and respect knowledge and expertise while adhering to dignity, wisdom, and national interests.”

“Why doesn't Iraq, which we have served so much, return our money? Why doesn't China, with which we have a good relationship, give us our dollars?”



“Mr. Pezeshkian raised some good points. It's correct to say we should listen to expert opinions. But the point is that we both are running for the presidency, we can't say now that I want to sit down and understand issues. This should have been done earlier.”

“We have had hundreds of meetings and thousands of hours with experts.”

“Mr. Pezeshkian, you are not correctly diagnosing some issues right now. In the cases of FATF and JCPOA, we should ask the other side to fulfill its commitments.”

“But we shouldn't procrastinate ourselves. We should also pursue other avenues in parallel.”

“If the other side says they won't fulfill their commitments, we shouldn't bow down. This is what they did in those eight years (during Rouhani’s presidency from 2013 to 2021).”

“My words summarize the opinions of hundreds and thousands of experts. It's the summary of 140 trips to various parts of the country.”

“Each Iranian embassy should become an export platform. We should identify priorities in economic relations with neighboring countries and achieve goals.”

“More important than making a mistake is repeating a mistake that has been made before.”



“Mr. Jalili, the words you have spoken pertain to direction. I ask, what is your plan? A plan has scientific methods, pathways, and processes.”

“The seventh development plan was written by the Martyr President Raisi’s government. If you accept it, we will implement it.”

“I will step aside from the election on the condition that if you fail to achieve an eight percent economic growth, they [authorities] can execute you.”



“With all due respect to Mr. Pezeshkian, he is holding the country back.”

Not only can we manage the country, but we can also propel it forward.”



“I consider sanctions a serious detriment (to the country). My foreign policy aims to normalize relations with the world. I support the implementation of FATF and JCPOA.

“For me, foreign policy means interaction, economic growth, and engagement—for peace and for people, not at their expense.”


July 2 Debate on the Economy


“In principle, the government shouldn't intervene in prices and dictate what to do with production.”

“Government intervention brings disaster to the stock market, the market, and producers.”

“What we are doing regarding the stock market is to restore stability and security to it. We won't compensate for the government's budget deficit from the stock market.”



“Mr. Pezeshkian! You're not speaking at a university anymore, as you claimed. Now you want to talk about the presidency. When you say we need to find a solution, then when?”

“People, today we must decide, and studies should have been conducted beforehand. The presidency is not a trial-and-error phase or an experiment. Every passing day puts pressure on the people.”

“In the government of Mr. (Hassan) Rouhani (who was president from 2017 to 2021), which Mr. Pezeshkian wants to continue as the third Rouhani government, the approach was to decide who should receive energy subsidies.”

“The best plan is to involve people themselves in this grand national plan. If you involve people in managing energy consumption, then they will participate because they will feel its benefit.”

“We must trust people. It is the government's role to provide the framework and allow the people to manage their own consumption.”



“Dear people, know that our brother, who intends to become the president tomorrow, currently has all the officials of the current government—district governors, provincial governors, etc.—working with full force for him.”

“Wealthier individuals consume more energy, and the cost is borne by those who do not use gasoline or electricity.”

“If fairness is to be achieved, this subsidy should be given to everyone. It should also be given to those who do not consume.”

“We should provide subsidies to vulnerable groups and at least recover the additional consumption costs from people like me.”



“Mr. Pezeshkian! You talk about honesty with people, but you must show your honesty to people. Not that something is written and you say, “‘I am reading these!’”

“God is the overseer and witness of how much your statements are in accordance with reality and the truth.”

“You don't even know, Mr. Pezeshkian, when the case of Iran was referred to the U.N. Security Council. You neither understand the issue nor know the date the case was referred.”



“He only throws accusations and hasn't answered your (moderator) question.”

“He says that I belong to a certain party. This is a blatant lie. I am not affiliated with any party. Everyone knows this. But he (Jalili) accuses me to deceive the people.”



“Are the people around you not (former President) Rouhani's ministers? Wasn't Mr. Zarif Rouhani's minister? You call that slander?”

“Is Mr. (Mohammad Javad) Zarif (a former foreign minister), with his ineffective performance, part of your campaign team or not?”

“The Strategic Action Law by the parliament for lifting (U.S.) sanctions was a very precise law.”

“You gave dozens of concessions (to Western powers), and it didn't work. We do not believe that such concessions should be made.”

“We can't give all the concessions, and then when they don't act, we say we have won the ethics trophy.”

“Mr. Pezeshkian, the problem with you is that you don't accept the people. You don't consider the youth and the experts.”

“Can you show your plan that you claim they have supported? Which plan do you have?”



“He wants to become president, and yet in front of the people, he falsely accuses me of continuing Rouhani's path. He slanders those who are not present and is never willing to sit down and talk with them.”

“Our national hero, the honorable Martyr General (Qassem) Soleimani, ensured Iraq's security, but we give the market to others.”

“A weak leader is someone who negotiates but ends up with Iran's case being referred to the U.N. Security Council.”

“I commit to pursuing justice and eliminating discrimination.”

“I commit to striving so that no Iranian family has to worry about their children.”

“The reason for the current situation is incompetent, inexperienced and unqualified managers.”



“Mr. Pezeshkian evaded answering questions. He doesn’t talk about sanctions or solutions.”

“He only says we will talk to foreign countries and put pressure on our own country.”

“Mr. Pezeshkian, do you know what an 'alternative' means? I say I will go with alternatives and options.”

“Name one of those alternatives. What do you have besides giving concessions?”

“You want to disregard 32 years of performance and focus only on the past three years (of Raisi’s presidency), which have actually been remarkable compared to those 32 years.”

“You said it was impossible to export oil, but compare 2019 with 2023. It has multiplied several times in 2023 compared to 2019.”

“Foreign investments in 2023 compared to 2019 and 2018 have multiplied several times.”

“At the beginning of Martyr Raisi’s government, some economists predicted that inflation would exceed 100 percent. Now these same people, according to Mr. Pezeshkian, are considered experts!”

“On issues such as JCPOA and FATF, we are in a position to demand and must pursue the matter through dialogue.”

“But as Mr. Pezeshkian said, we also need alternatives. It seems he has just become familiar with this term.”

“We must practically neutralize sanctions so that even the U.S. Secretary of State will have to admit that they didn’t want us to sell oil, yet we are now selling two million barrels of oil.”

“A self-deprecating group alongside Mr. Pezeshkian says that they didn't try to stop us. We just didn't succeed. This perspective is a real disaster.”

“We must make the other party regret imposing economic sanctions and make it costly for them to continue. This requires planning and effort.”



“The reality is this: You say you did this and that. Well, if you did, where is it? Didn't you say employment would double and we would build a million houses a year?”

“In these three years, they have only issued permits for 900,000 houses. They were supposed to bring inflation to single digits, but it has been double digits for three years!”

“Yesterday I asked him if President Raisi’s government had a plan or not? If there was a plan, what is your plan? Do you want to reset everything from scratch?”



“Mr. Pezeshkian, I am sorry that you consider our country to be a cage. What do you mean by saying we are in a cage?”

“You follow a single path regarding sanctions, keep saying it, get no results, face sanctions again, and continue on the same path.” 

“You do not offer any solution for sanctions. Your only solution is to give more concessions. You gave all the concessions and got nothing in return. You still haven't presented a solution.”

“You have not provided a plan for the country's growth or for lifting sanctions. You believe there is a deadlock, but I believe there is no deadlock.”

“Despite sanctions, there are so many opportunities and potentials for growth.”

“You should hold the other party accountable for not fulfilling their commitments, not say you will pressure the people to give more concessions to the foreign party.” 

“If the other party does not fulfill its commitments, what concession do you want to give that you haven't given before?”

“You are a doctor, Mr. Pezeshkian. Wrong diagnoses lead to wrong prescriptions and can be deadly.”



“During last night’s debate, it seemed as if I had disrespected our great national commander (General Qassem Soleimani). I consider him a source of national pride and a thorn in the eyes of our enemies”

“General Soleimani was a hero who fought against oppression abroad and was a supporter of the oppressed at home, regardless of whether they wore hijab or not, or whether they were religious or not.”

“I will implement the Strategic Action Law of the Parliament (in response to sanctions). Since it is the law, I will implement it.”

“We will discuss it with the Supreme National Security Council and Foreign Policy Commission of the Parliament to reach a common perspective and language.”

“It is not the case that if the U.S. does not fulfill its commitments, we will still fulfill ours. I will not enter into negotiations (about the JCPOA) with just one option.”

“No government in history has been able to achieve growth and prosperity within a cage.”

“We are compelled to first interact and exchange with regional countries for growth and prosperity, and then with other countries (across the world).”

“The primary issue is the perspective: do we want to solve our problems with the world or not? I believe we must get out of the deadlock to solve the country's problems.”



“Dear people! The stock market is one of the best tools for the economy, production, and advancement of the country.”

“The stock market requires management, which means you must have a stability council. The central bank cannot make decisions that harm the stock market.”

“We have insurance for car accidents, shouldn't we have insurance for the stock market as well? Shares should be insured so that people do not suffer losses.”

“The stock market is actually an opportunity, one of the platforms for every Iranian is this very stock market.”

“Some individuals seeking rent and others involved in topics like speculative money want turmoil in the stock market to earn speculative money.”

“One of our ways to enhance the stock market is transparency to prevent such things.”

“Our opinion is to strengthen the stock market. One of our main discussions is facilitating financial support for production.”



“In the Islamic government, no human should lay their hungry head on a pillow.”

“It's natural not to give subsidies to me and people who ride in luxurious cars. They should take from the wealthy and give to the deprived.”

“We need to assess the situation we are facing. Currently, there's no plan; everyone is receiving subsidies.” 

“We need to determine who should receive subsidies and who shouldn't.”



“When the 45,000 tomans subsidy was given, its value was equivalent to $45, and it really helped the people. But in the eight years (under Rouhani), they devalued the national currency and it became 30,000 tomans.”

“With the policies they were talking about making everything rosy with talks, inflation became 60 percent and dollar reached 30,000 tomans. They still provided the same 45,000 toman subsidy and didn't adjust it.”

“Martyr President Raisi was not indifferent. He reduced inflation by 60 percent and increased subsidies tenfold, making it 450,000 tomans.”

“We proposed a household basket plan. When some are going hungry, you cannot sleep. You are responsible.”
“We prepared a plan with 13 food items that provide 2,500 calories, which is the daily requirement of every person, to ensure at least the peace of mind that these 13 items reach the people and provide 2,500 calories.”

“We proposed a household travel plan. Subsidies shouldn't only be for bread. Dignified families have needs, just as they need bread, they also need recreation and travel.”



“Among my supporters are both left and right, even those who do not pray. But I will enforce the law.”

“The government of Martyr Raisi had said they would build one million house. It was a law, but they had not seen the resources. However, this is the entire housing that was provided during Martyr Raisi's government (showing a chart). It's similar to before.”

“They used to say they would build one million houses, create one million jobs, and reduce inflation to single digits. Did it happen?”

“Not only am I following Martyr Raisi's path in housing, but I am also strongly pursuing the land reform that is part of the policies of the leader of the Islamic revolution.”

“If we do not pursue land reforms, the future of Tehran will be a disaster.”

“We must be able to provide employees with enough money to at least live in the homes they occupy. This ties back to the inflation that the government creates.”



“Some friends claim the Mehr housing scheme is worthless. Well, what alternative did you have? They're proud that they didn't even build a single housing unit.”

“In eight years (under the Rouhani government), the average housing prices increased tenfold.”

“Mr. Pezeshkian! What does the seventh (national development) plan say about land and housing? I speak for people, but you too, Mr. Pezeshkian, should find out!”



“Without allocating resources for housing, no government can implement these laws.”

“With the salaries we provide to employees, even in a 1000-year period, housing cannot be built in Tehran.

“I have repeatedly said that the cause of inflation is the government that takes money out of people's pockets.” 

“Either the government expands and creates the imbalance, forcing it to print money, or the government borrows extra money from banks.”

“If we can import and export currency, we can significantly mitigate inflation and take off pressure off people.”

“Amid sanctions, prices inevitably rise, and we cannot make purchases, leaving the government to dip into people's pockets.”

“What we can currently do domestically, without lifting sanctions, is to focus on energy inefficiencies, currency management, and management.”



“The government of Martyr Raisi inherited at least 60 percent inflation and made every effort to reduce it. For some items, inflation was 80 percent before his government.” 

“The issue of inflation must be rooted out and resolved, without blaming individuals.”

“You (Pezeshkian) have very little information on many topics, and in these matters, you don't even have basic information.”

“Inflation has two causes: one is core inflation, and the other is inflationary spikes. We need solutions for both.”

“What is the solution for budget imbalance? Increase resources and reduce expenditures.”

“First and foremost, to control inflation, you must have control over the rial.”



“Management and control of the structure and assets of retirees must be implemented so that their assets are not wasted.”

“Factories, companies and buildings owned by retirees should be managed in a way that enhances productivity rather than cause losses.”

“Retirees should have access to healthcare services without cost.”

“We should increase retirees’ salaries based on the (existing) inflation rate.”



Mr. Pezeshkian has a problem with the fact that a group of people and elites sit down together to find solutions to problems.”

“It's strange for him that people can sit down and do this without considering the costs.”

“In Mr. Pezeshkian's view, it's impossible for individuals to sit like this and do consultancy work without considering money.”

“We say every Iranian should have a glorious role, you say it's just about money. There are thousands of people willing to work for the country.”

“The same parliament (the sixth parliament) that was aligned with you impeached you (from the health ministry).”



“I was not a member of any party, but I became the deputy minister of health in (Mohammad) Khatami's government because I had professional qualifications.”

“I am neither illiterate nor affiliated with any party, nor did I separate myself from the people. I was from within the people and for the people.”

“They falsely accuse me of being part of a certain government (referring to Rouhani’s government).

“I ask you to come to the scene on Friday, July 5th, and vote for Iran. I respect those who voted and those who did not.”



“Dear people! The choice is between returning to the eight years of country’s stagnation or continuing with Martyr Raisi in reviving the factories.”

“Now is not the time to waste opportunities. It is the time for role-playing to compensate for those eight years of capital destruction.”

“Dear people! A world of opportunities lies ahead of us.”

“Now is not the time to make excuses. We cannot solve problems with trial and error plans.”

“I'm not someone who makes excuses at the first sign of a problem.”

“Their (wrongdoers) cries have risen against me, even though nothing has happened yet.”

“They know I will hold them accountable, the state-owned companies and the cronies.”

“You need to structure your systems and know where this circulation of money is going. You must create transparency in large capital assets.”

“The fluctuations in exchange rates cause inflation and lead to distress in the market and the people.”


Some of the translations were sourced from Iran's English-language PressTV channel.