Contradictory reports have thrown the fate of another pro-reform minister in President Hassan Rouhani’s administration in limbo.
While dozens of local news outlets maintain that Rouhani’s Minister of Industry, Mines and Business, Mohammad Shariatmadari is facing parliamentary impeachment, others report that he has already resigned from his position.
Shariatmadari, 58, Rouhani’s campaign manager during May 2017 presidential election, is one of the last ministers in Iran’s government staunchly defending private sector and opposing state-run businesses.
“Shariatmadari, in coordination with Hassan Rouhani has resigned,” a pro-reform member of parliament’s Economic Commission, Elias Hazrati told the official website of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, Khane-ye Mellat (Nation’s House).
Other reports suggest that Rouhani accepted Shariatmadari’s resignation before leaving Tehran for New York to attend the UN General Assembly (UNGA).
.Meanwhile, state-run news agencies, ISNA and Mehr have also cited another MP confirming Shariatmadari’s resignation.
The conservative MP behind the parliamentary motion to impeach the Minister is a quoted an “informed source” as saying that Shariatmadari had resigned.
Retired police officer and former second Brigadier General of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, Alireza Beigi maintained that Shariatmadari, scared of being grilled by the MPs, has offered his resignation and Rouhani accepted it before flying to New York to attend UNGA.
The hardline MP accused Rouhani of endorsing Shariatmadari’s resignation to cover up the weakness of the Industry, Mines and Business Ministry and his cabinet in managing forex affairs.
Under the Islamic Republic’s Constitution, legislators can impeach ministers when they deem it necessary. An impeachment motion can be submitted when it has at least ten signatures.
Several other “informed sources” have also told state-run Iran Students News Agency (ISNA) that there have been talks on the Minister’s resignation in past few days.
However, citing the Ministry’s department of Public Affairs, the government’s information website has “categorically” denied Shariatmadari’s resignation, insisting that the Administration has an official news website for publishing such developments and the media affiliated with other branches of power are expected to avoid creating “new problems” for the executive branch by disseminating unconfirmed news.
The pro-reform Minister who served former President Mohammad Khatami for eight years as Commerce Minister (1997-2005), shocked everybody last July by refusing to publish the list of individuals and companies who had used subsidized dollars for their personal benefit.
Publishing the names will damage the relation between the government and the private sector and detrimental to the country’s economy, Shariatmadari argued at the time.
Nonetheless, Shariatmadari relented later and in a TV program on July 24, revealing the names of 100 companies and individuals who had illegally ordered car imports with government subsidized dollars meant for essential goods.
Contradictory news concerning Shariatmadari’s impeachment and resignation are widely spread at a time that MPs have sacked Rouhani’s Ministers of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare and Economy through impeachment.
Meanwhile, it was said on Sunday, September 23 that the letter for impeachment of the Minister of Roads and Urban Development, Abbas Akhoundi was signed by fifty MPs and delivered to majlis’ (parliament) board of directors.
The steep drop in the value of Iran’s currency, rial against dollar in recent months has placed Rouhani’s government under more pressure by his ultraconservative opponents who traditionally are supported by the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.