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Two Rouhani Ministers Survive Impeachment After A Day-Long Session

Iranian Labor Minister Ali Rabiei walks to the podium during his parliament impeachment hearing, in Tehran, March 13, 2018

Iranian Parliament (Majles) has reinstated Roads-Transportation, and Labor ministers after a day-long impeachment session on Tuesday March 13.

The MPs cast 152 votes to keep Abbas Akhundi in office against 92 votes that called for his dismissal. They also decided to keep Ali Rabi’i in office with 126 votes in his favor and 124 against.

Although the overall result of the impeachment of the two ministers signals parliament’s support for the Rouhani administration, the fact that his ministers had to go through an impeachment process, might cast a shadow of doubt on the future of ties between the administration and the Majles.

In Rabi’i’s case the slim edge indicates that the dissatisfaction leading to the impeachment attempt was not just a partisan issue. Many conservatives and reformists voted against him. It can also mean that Rabi’i has a rough road ahead as labor minister during the next three years.

Iranian cabinet ministers (L to R); Ali Rabiei [Labor and Social Welfare], Ali Hojjati [Agriculture] and Abbas Akhoundi [Road and Urban] who have been subjected to parliamentary impeachment.
Iranian cabinet ministers (L to R); Ali Rabiei [Labor and Social Welfare], Ali Hojjati [Agriculture] and Abbas Akhoundi [Road and Urban] who have been subjected to parliamentary impeachment.

Criticism of Rabi’i’s performance included “ignoring workers’ rights, failure in running the pension funds as well as poor performance in the area of entrepreneurship.” Rabi’i was also criticized for accidents involving an Aseman airline airplane and oil tanker Sanchi which belonged to the ministry of labor.

During the impeachment session, Abolfazl Hasanbeigi, MP for Damghan, said that the labor ministry has $150 billion in assets at its disposal, which could have brought billions of tumans of profit during the past four years, but the pension fund is in deficit.

He also criticized the minister for lack of profitability of the petrochemical plant and refineries that belong to labor ministry.

Hossein Maqsudi, MP for Sabzevar, said that massive demonstrations in December and January could have been prevented if Rabi’i listened to the workers’ grievances, adding that President Rouhani should have fired Rabi’I for ignoring workers’ demands.

Rabi’i did not address many of these questions in his defense statement, however, defending himself against critics, Rabi’i said that his ministry “is tasked with implementing policies on eradication of poverty – a plan that needs 20 years to come to fruition.”

Responding to the criticism of his poor performance in creating jobs leading to serious dissatisfaction that culminated in widespread protests in December 2017 and January 2018, Rabi’i contended that “most protesters had a job,” reported Mehr news agency.

During Akhundi’s impeachment in the afternoon session of the Majles, MP Adl Hashemipour criticized Akhundi for not being accountable for accidents on the ground, in the sea, and in the air. “How many catastrophes should happen before we know Akhundi lacks appropriate ministerial qualifications?” Iranian agencies quoted Hashemipour as asking.

Akhundi in his televised speech broadcast live on the state TV, apologized for the loss of lives in the plane crash near Yasuj, but did not offer convincing responses to questions about roads and housing for which he blamed “chaotic bureaucracy”.

While tabling the motion for impeachment of Akhundi, MPs listed “incapability to deal with the crises in the country’s transportation system, failing to supervise the air and land transport fleets, not implementing Majles plans about transportation, and lack of motivation to run the affairs of their ministries” as some of the reasons for his impeachment.

Akhundi was subjected to impeachment votes once in September 2016 and again in March 2017, but every time he managed to win the MPs’ vote of confidence.

The motion for the impeachment of labor and road ministers was tabled on February 19, one day after an Iranian Aseman airliner crashed near Yasuj, killing all 65 passengers and crew members on board, and nearly a month after 32 technicians lost their lives as a result of the sinking of oil tanker Sanchi. The news of the agriculture minister’s impeachment broke out only in early March.

The impeachment of Agriculture Minister Mahmud Hojati is on the Majles agenda for Wednesday March 14.