Iran presidential election debate 'comical'
10:26AM BST 01 Jun 2013
Iranian newspapers gave a resounding thumbs down to the first televised debate between the candidates for this month's presidential election, echoing criticism from the hopefuls themselves of a format they said stifled real discussion.
Conservative candidate Mohsen Rezai, a former commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards, told his own Tabnak website that he would boycott the other two debates scheduled for next Wednesday and Friday if the format does not change.
The reformist Bahar newspaper said the quality of the debate had been "comical".
Another reformist daily, Etemad, commented: "Television has turned the most important political event into an entertainment programme."
Even the hardline Kayhan newspaper said the debate had "failed to live up to expectations".
All eight candidates who secured the approval of Iran's conservative-led electoral watchdog to stand in the June 14 election took part in the four-hour debate.
But despite its length, the debate failed to provide a platform for real discussion between the candidates of how they would reverse the rapid deterioration of the economy in the face of EU and US sanctions.
The lone reformist candidate, former first vice president Mohammad Reza Aref, refused to take part in one section of the programme in which each candidate was given multiple choice questions about their programme.
"This way of organising the debate and asking questions is an insult to all eight candidates and to the Iranian people," he said.
His criticism led the front page of the repeatedly banned reformist daily Shargh.
Edited for Telegraph.co.uk by Barney Henderson