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Political Pressure Likely To Be the Main Cause of Tehran Mayor’s Resignation

Tehran's reformist mayor, Mohammad Ali Najafi who was elected together with an all-reformist city council in May 2017. His efforts to uncover corruption rattled conservatives.

Reports originating from Tehran City Council say it is more likely that “political pressure” has been the underlying reason for centrist Mayor Mohammad Ali Najafi’s resignation, although his illness was also instrumental in his decision to step down in mid-March.

A Tehran City Council member says “pressures by a security organization” and the “humiliating behavior of the Prosecutor’s Office” are among the reasons for the resignation of Tehran’s mayor.

Meanwhile, two other council members have stated that the mayor’s illness, officially stated as the reason for stepping down, is not the only reason why Najafi has decided to resign his post.

The Young Journalists Club (YJC), a news organization affiliated with Iran’s state TV (IRIB) quoted Ali Ata the spokesperson for the Tehran City Council as saying on March 19 that the news of Najafi’s illness “is not fabricated.”

However, Ata explained, that illness is not the only reason for Najafi’s resignation.

Ata told the YJC: “Najafi had already decided to resign, but the illness which occurred during the past month, gave him enough reason to insist on stepping down.”

Ata did not elaborate on the details of the illness and the nature of pressures that forced the Tehran mayor to resign.

Councillors Bahareh Arvin and Mohammad Alikhani had also said on March 17 that “Stress and pressures exerted by security organizations” have exacerbated Najafi’s conditions.

Arvin said that “A security organization had told the Tehran City Council before Najafi’s appointment as mayor that the organization would not accept Najafi as Tehran’s mayor, and if the council appoints him, the security organization would disclose damning documents about his background.”

In this statement, Arvin was probably alluding to the IRGC Intelligence “Organization.”

Arvin added that Khamenei’s office has postponed a meeting between the councillors and Supreme Leader Khamenei, and this could indicate that opposition to Najafi is led from somewhere higher up in the Iranian establishment.

She said Najafi’s interrogation was “humiliating” as a young man in his early twenties questioned and indicted him.

Another Councillor, Mahmud Mirlohi has said that Najafi’s illness is not so serious that it could force him to resign. Meanwhile former deputy interior minister Mostafa Tajzadeh, an outspoken reformist, has implicitly said in a tweet that it was pressure byKhamenei and his close aides that led Najafi to step down.

The news of Najafi’s resignation broke out one week after the Tehran Prosecutor’s Office summoned him for questioning about his presence at a ceremony marking the International Women’s Day on March 8 in Tehran during which a number of young girls danced on stage in the mayor’s presence.

Najafi was known to have a heart condition, but there are rumors he has developed cancer, as well, Mehr News Agency reported on March 14.

Najafi took office as Tehran’s mayor in August 2017 by the city council’s “all reformist” members and his resignation after seven months has brought the city council under loads of criticism.

The Tehran City Council will discuss Najafi’s resignation after the Iranian New Year holidays, which end in early April.

Najafi is a member of the centrist Executives of Construction Party, which is part of Iran’s reformist camp although the party’s platform introduces it as a moderate centrist party.

Najafi himself has not elaborated on the reasons of his resignation, but some observers say that pressures on Najafi started after the Tehran Municipality published evidence of financial corruption in the Municipality under former conservative mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.

Najafi had said that he was going to hand over some of the evidence to courts.