August 4, 2021
The highlights of the Tuesday morning ceremony in Tehran in which the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei endorsed President Ebrahim Raisi’s credentials, were Khamenei’s concern about the delay in forming the new cabinet and Raisi’s criticism of former President Hassan Rouhani’s performance.
Khamenei appeared utterly worried as Raisi has not yet managed to form his cabinet and has not even shortlisted his choices for several posts. Raisi looked thoughtful when Khamenei was making the comment about the cabinet. He called on both Raisi and the Majles to make sure that the cabinet is formed and endorsed by the parliament as soon as possible.
Although the Iranian press had reported earlier that the Majles has given Raisi two weeks after his inauguration on Thursday to introduce his ministers to the parliament, with Khamenei’s advice, it is now more likely that Raisi would try his best to name his ministers by Thursday or early next week.
Khamenei’s concern reflects the fact that Iran is in the middle of an economic crisis compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic. Iranian media were also concerned during the past weeks that the incumbent government was not doing much to resolve the crisis, and the next administration has not taken office yet.
Meanwhile, in an unprecedented development never seen in any endorsement ceremony since 1979, Raisi criticized the Rouhani administration’s performance particularly in the area of the economy.
Raisi said that his election was indicative of the demand by the people for a change in the current situation. He particularly criticized the Rouhani administration for not being able to do anything about the 44 percent inflation rate.
During the time he was criticizing Rouhani and his administration, Iran’s state TV zoomed on Rouhani’s utterly angry and annoyed face.
Rouhani kept the same posture later in the day, as he ushered Raisi into the old presidential office near Khamenei’s residence in downtown Tehran. Rouhani moved his office to one of the palaces of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in the affluent Shemiran neighborhood north of Tehran in 2013, and Khamenei is said to be living outside the capital in a place not known to the public.
In the Iranian television’s live coverage of the ceremony, prominent Islamic Republic figures such as former Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and former Majles Speaker Ali Larijani were placed in the 6th row near the end of the hall where low-key officials were sitting. On the other hand, former Majles Speaker and Khamenei’s relative Gholam Ali Haddad Adel as well as Khamenei’s chief foreign policy adviser Ali Akbar Velayati were sitting closer to the podium, both dozing off throughout the ceremony.
On the podium, Khamenei had Raisi and Rouhani on his either side. Next to the new president, were new Judiciary Chief Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei, who was the only man who looked alert and happy on the podium, and the last one on that side was a deeply thoughtful or conspicuously angry Majles Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf probably thinking that he would have been in the spotlight as president.
Overall, this was an exceptional endorsement for a president who was elected with a humiliatingly small turnout while all of his real key rivals had been barred to make sure that he would win. However, Rouhani’s humiliating situation during the ceremony, and the absence of two former presidents Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Mohammad Khatami, both popular with voters in their own way, possibly reminded everyone in the hall that Raisi’s honeymoon with Khamenei may also be over soon.