Despite calls from city council members to rescind his resignation, Tehran Mayor Mohammad Ali Najafi is resolved to leave his post for medical reasons, city Budget Committee Chairman Majid Farahani announced April 3.
“The mayor has presented three different medical certificates confirming he is suffering from an illness that is difficult to treat, and has refused to withdraw his resignation,” Farahani said.
But the mayor’s resignation saga is shrouded in a bit of mystery, as many city council members and observers hint at political pressure by conservatives being the real reason behind his decision.
Najafi, 66, an MIT-educated politician who held cabinet positions in the 1990s and in 2014, was overwhelmingly elected as Tehran’s mayor last August and officially took the helm at city hall in September.
He replaced Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf, an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander and former chief of police who challenged Hassan Rouhani in last May’s presidential election, but dropped out midway to back another conservative candidate.
The Tehran City Council is scheduled to vote to approve Najafi’s resignation April 8.
One of Najafi’s aides has implied that city council members are under pressure to endorse the mayor’s resignation as soon as possible.
“Mr. Najafi is not inclined to resign, and Tehran city council members are also reluctant to endorse his resignation,” Gholam-Ali Rajaei, and aide to the mayor, wrote on his Telegram channel, adding, “However, if it [Najafi’s resignation] is expedient for the regime, the council members will give in and accept the resignation.”
The news of Najafi’s “difficult to treat” illness and his sudden resignation have coincided with bitter attacks against the mayor by conservative allies of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. They have accused him of impropriety for attending an event marking International Women’s Day March 8 where young girls danced in front of a mixed-gender audience.
The news of Najafi’s resignation also comes just one week after the Tehran prosecutor’s office summoned him for questioning about his presence at the event in Tehran, where a group of eight to nine-year-old girls performed a dance on stage in the mayor’s presence.
However, even before this incident, conservatives had started to attack the mayor after his administration began to go public about corruption and wasteful spending during his predecessor’s term.
The Islamic Republic’s judiciary demanded Najafi present evidence he claims he possesses of widespread financial corruption in the Tehran municipality under the former mayor.
Judiciary spokesman and mid-ranking cleric Gholam-hossein Mohseni Ejei has dismissed Najafi’s attacks on General Ghalibaf, maintaining, “Most of the people who are newly appointed to serve in a position love to criticize their predecessors, but they never present any evidence to prove their allegations.”
Two other council members concur that the mayor’s illness is not the only reason he decided to resign.
City council member Bahare Arvin believes Najafi has been forced to resign.
“The prosecutor-general’s humiliating behavior and comments on Mr. Najafi, as well as the postponement of the mayor’s scheduled meeting
with the Supreme leader are among the real reasons Najafi resigned,” said Ms. Arvin.
Morteza Alviri, a former mayor of Tehran and current city council member, has gone further by insisting that Najafi’s alleged illness is a common disease many suffer from, and [not an acceptable excuse for resignation].