The first stage of the show turned into expression of bitterness and anger over the questions and format, broadcasted live on state television on Friday.
State-run daily Etemad wrote: “State-run TV has turned the most important political event into an entertainment programme.”
Some members of the Iranian regime’s parliament described the debate as ‘a TV game’ or ‘Comical Baazar.’ Some said the state-run network should apologise for the ridiculous show.
One MP said: “a majority of people Iran are ridiculing the program. For example they say that in the next round of debates the candidates would probably be asked to do some painting.”
Another MP said the event reminds him of a comedy show.
The debate between the eight candidates of sham election who had been able to pass through filtering by unelected Guardian Council was a rare unscripted moment in an election authorities hope to tightly control.
The candidates were barred from directed debate and instead, they were asked direct questions by the show’s host about the state of Iran’s economy and nuclear program.
But the format of the show itself finally became the most controversial issue during the broadcast.
Candidate Mohammad Reza Aref said afterwards: “This debate was not respectful to the candidates. We should have been allowed to debate with each other. I only stayed out of respect to the viewers but did not answer any of the questions.
And candidate Mohsen Rezaei added: “State-run TV must recognize the eight candidates as a president. I was patient and tolerant. I was trying to see where this process would end, but repetitive questions in a very limited time was not appropriate.
“If we don’t observe the importance of the president from now on, it means that we don’t want to establish a strong government. We are now deciding whether we should appear in the future debates or not.”
Meanwhile Hassan Rohani described the style of debate as ‘insulting’ and Bagher Qalibaf, Saeed Jalili and Ali Akbar Velayati all said they were asked the wrong questions.
The biggest objections were to the multiple choice questions they had to answer within three minutes. They were also shown a series of photos – including of a cargo ship, cars backed up in traffic, and clock showing the time of 7:15 – and asked to give their impressions.
Aref told the TV host: “I am not answering these questions. I stopped answering exam questions 40 or 50 years ago.”
And former nuclear negotiator Hassan Rohani added: “You should have asked the candidates in advance over the manner of the debate.”
The second debate is planned for June 5 with a final one focusing on policy issues on June 7.