Iran General NewsStruggling Iranian cleric offers cash handouts

Struggling Iranian cleric offers cash handouts

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AFP: One of Iran’s struggling presidential candidates has come up with a novel way to get votes: buy them — openly. Mehdi Karoubi, a mid-ranking cleric and political moderate, has promised that if elected he will start paying everyone over the age of 18 the sum of 500,000 rials (55 dollars) every month — no questions asked.
AFP

TEHRAN – One of Iran’s struggling presidential candidates has come up with a novel way to get votes: buy them — openly.

Mehdi Karoubi, a mid-ranking cleric and political moderate, has promised that if elected he will start paying everyone over the age of 18 the sum of 500,000 rials (55 dollars) every month — no questions asked.

“Stride towards a comfortable and free life with the 500,000 programme,” Karoubi’s campaign literature says.

He is also promising free consulations with doctors, all without cutting into the already huge state subsidies on fuel, bread and rice.

Karoubi may be a man of the cloth but there are doubts over his ability to use a calculator.

The plan could spell disaster for the Iranian economy, given that the handouts would cost the state around 28 billion dollars over one year — roughly the same amount of Iran’s hard currency fund for surplus oil revenue.

The word inflation also springs to mind.

Karoubi, however, insists the plan has been run through by economists and that it all adds up — and indeed that it represents the wish of Iran’s revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini for Iran’s oil money to go straight into the public’s pocket.

“I am sorry that for all these years, the Iranian people have been deprived of this right,” Karoubi has told his supporters. “I have never lied to you and I will never lie.”

But the dramatic campaign pledge does not appear to be working, with Karoubi, 68, trailing in the polls with the likely support of just around 10 percent of the Islamic republic’s electorate.

It has also sparked a local joke: “Can you lend me 500,000 rials? I’ll pay you back when Karoubi starts paying!”

At a Karoubi rally in Tehran just days before Friday’s vote, his campaign promised 100,000 people would turn up. There were only a few hundred, mainly poor students or the unemployed looking for cash.

One of them was 29-year-old Mehdi Mohammadi, who insisted the cleric’s cash plan makes perfect sense and could even help him to tie the knot.

“Oil revenues represent 10 million rials per head per year,” he explained. “Karoubi is only promising six million.”

Karoubi is a former parliament speaker known as a close ally of outgoing President Mohammad Khatami and “the sheikh of reformers” for his support of the movement.

In the presidential elections — for which former two-time president Akkbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is the hot favourite — Karoubi has turned down an alliance with rival reformist contender Mostafa Moin.

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