August 12, 2020
The Iranian Parliament on Wednesday turned down President Hassan Rouhani’s candidate to head the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Trade.
In an open session of the Parliament this morning 140 of the 254 lawmakers present refused to give a vote of confidence to Hossein Modarres-Khiabani, the caretaker of the ministry. He received 104 votes in favor and 10 lawmakers abstained from voting.
Vice-President Es’haq Jahangiri attended the session instead of the President who can introduce and defend his proposed minister. The Speaker Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf said Rouhani had been advised by the Coronavirus Taskforce not to attend the session. The Presidium, however, did not allow Jahangiri to speak in Rouhani’s place.
President Rouhani appointed Modarres-Khiabani as the caretaker of the ministry after sacking Reza Rahmani in May and tasked him with managing the market and regulating automobile prices in particular.
The vote for the minister was the first serious confrontation between political factions in the newly elected parliament in which hardliners have the majority. Rouhani has three months to propose another candidate.
Mohsen Zanganeh, one of the lawmakers who opposed the nomination, in his pre-vote speech said Khiabani is not strong enough to fight the various “Mafiosi” on Iran’s economic scene.
The title “Mafia” in Iran is used for various powerful and influential groups or individuals who have control over a sector such as car manufacturing or imports of goods such as sugar.
Iran’s large semi-governmental car manufacturing industry – the biggest auto industry in the Middle East — is mired with corruption and mismanagement. Several CEOs and other high officials of the industry are in jail on charges of corruption.
Another opposing lawmaker, Hosseinali Haji-Daligani, alleged that during his seven years in the ministry Modarres-Khiabani has failed to implement the use of commodity tracking codes which could bring smuggling of commodities to a stop and “save the country $25 billion”.
Ali Babai-Karnami, Chairman of the Labor Faction of the Parliament in his speech in support of Khiabani said automakers and their supporters in the previous parliament who wanted to keep the prices of cars high are making every effort to disqualify him.