DUBAI May 17 Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei has criticised as "unworthy" the hostile exchanges
between rival candidates in Friday's presidential election, but
said a high turnout would mitigate the impact of any lasting
Rivals have been trading accusations of corruption and
brutality in debates and speeches aired on live television and
the campaign has been the most bad-tempered in the near 40-year
history of the Islamic Republic.
"In the election debates, some remarks were made that were
unworthy of the Iranian nation. But the (wide) participation of
the people will erase all of that," Khamenei told an audience on
Wednesday, according to his own website.
Seeking a second term, pragmatist President Hassan Rouhani,
68, remains the narrow favourite. Hardline rivals have hammered
him over his failure to boost an economy weakened by decades of
sanctions, even after most were lifted after Tehran, on
Rouhani's watch, struck a nuclear deal with major powers.
Rouhani's strongest challenger is hardline cleric Ebrahim
Raisi, 56, who says Iran does not need foreign help and promises
a revival of the values of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
In 2009, a disputed election led to major unrest in Iran,
where political protests are extremely rare. The demonstrations
were put to an end by a security crackdown.
In an apparent reference to the 2009 demonstrations,
Khamenei, a hardliner who has the ultimate say in the Islamic
Republic, has previously warned he would confront anyone trying
to interfere in the election.
"Look at the regional countries. Where is it not unsafe?"
Khamenei said, a thinly-veiled allusion to neighbouring Arab
states, some of whom are still in turmoil from Arab Spring
pro-democracy protests in 2011.
"In the midst of this unsafe group (of countries), the
Islamic Republic is preparing its elections amid safety and
calm... This is very valuable."
(Reporting by Dubai newsroom, William Maclean; Editing by