Raisi’s position on the nuclear issue was clear during the televised debate on May 5. The cleric, who appeared very calm and composed but left the public without a clear impression of his positions in the first debate on April 28, changed his tactics and adopted a different strategy in coordination with his ally Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf and other Principlists. Raisi was keen to present himself as very determined not to allow any violation of Iran’s nuclear rights.
While expressing respect for the nuclear deal, he stressed that it has failed to end Iran’s economic recession. He said Rouhani had promised that all sanctions would be removed after the deal, but that this has not happened. Still, Raisi and the other Principlist candidates did not offer any alternative paths for Iran.
Several opinion polls conducted before and after the debates show Raisi still far behind incumbent Rouhani and Ghalibaf. The next debate is scheduled for May 12.
“Elections in Iran are contested up to the last minute,” Raisi’s aide told Al-Monitor, “There is still a debate to come, and people are getting to know Mr. Raisi through his nationwide tours and gatherings. People in Iran want someone to rid them of corruption and the economic recession, give them more hope, breathe life into the political arena and bridge differences among Iranians. The right man for all of the above is Ebrahim Raisi, and therefore, we are sure of that by May 19, people will be aware that such a candidate exists, and the good news is that they can vote for him to be their president.”