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Presidential Candidates to Declare Their Wealth?

President Hassan Rouhani and his election rival Ebrahim Raeisi, just before the second presidential debate on May 5, 2017.

In the second and latest presidential debate for Iran’s upcoming election, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf suggested that all six candidates declare their wealth before Iran's the election on May 19.

"Let's tell the judiciary what we all own as presidential candidates," Ghalibaf said. "Let the amount of our wealth and that of our government members be clear and let it be transparent where we and our children stand now [while we run for president].”

Following the suggestion, leading conservative candidate Ebrahim Raisi, head of the multi-billion rich religious foundation Astane Qods Razavi, declared his wealth. According to the semi-official Mehr Agency, Raisi said on May 8, "I own nothing but a 140-square-meter apartment and a private bank account."

A third candidate, Mostafa Hashemi Taba, rejected the proposal, calling it a farce. Iranian State Radio And TV Agency quoted Taba as asking, "What is better, a candidate who is poor or a rich one?" And then he added, "I may say the rich person is a better choice since the poor one may try to enrich himself from public funds after being elected."

In recent debates, Ghalibaf has said Iran is divided into two camps: one consisting of only 4 percent of the population and the larger making up the remainder. The "main reason" for the deep gap between the rich and the poor, according to the Tehran mayor, is the rich 4 percent ignoring the 96 percent.

Ghalibaf's comments were interpreted as an indirect but sharp criticism of President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate in Iranian terms, who is being accused by conservatives of creating a “super aristocracy” and widening the gap between rich and poor.

Rouhani's supporters, in response, have suggested Ghalibaf should ask all of Tehran’s district mayors to declare their wealth, as well as what is owned by their children.

The third and last presidential debate will be held on May 12, exactly one week before the vote.