The Guardian: Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has sacked his oil and industry ministers in an apparent attempt to tighten his grip on power while deflecting blame for failed economic policies. The Guardian
· Cabinet shakeup follows criticism of Ahmadinejad
· Attempt to tighten grip on power before elections
Robert Tait in Tehran
Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has sacked his oil and industry ministers in an apparent attempt to tighten his grip on power while deflecting blame for failed economic policies.
In a major cabinet shakeup, Mr Ahmadinejad announced he had “accepted the resignations” of Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh and Alireza Tahmasbi. Despite the diplomatic wording, there appeared little doubt yesterday that the two men had been forced out, to be replaced by interim ministers until permanent successors are appointed.
Their departures follow widespread criticism of the president for presiding over an economic landscape of rising inflation and high unemployment, in contrast to his pre-election promises to alleviate poverty and generate prosperity.
Mr Vaziri-Hamaneh, the oil minister, may have been a victim of June’s introduction of petrol rationing, although he is not believed to have been responsible. The decision triggered widespread unrest and the destruction of dozens of filling stations by protesters.
Iran, the world’s fourth-largest oil producer, said the move was essential to cut the costs of importing heavily subsidised petrol. In recent days, Mr Ahmadinejad has rebuffed pressure to allow motorists to buy fuel at market prices, saying this will further stoke inflation. Mr Vaziri-Hamaneh was the president’s fourth choice oil minister after parliament rejected his first three nominees. His departure gives Mr Ahmadinejad a chance to install a more favoured candidate at a time when MPs will be distracted with preparations for next March’s parliamentary elections.
The exit of Mr Tahmasbi as industry minister had been widely anticipated after he tendered his resignation letter last week. His departure is thought to have been engineered after he resisted demands to replace ministry officials with the president’s hand-picked appointees.
Saeed Leylaz, an economic analyst, said the two ministers were victims of Mr Ahmadinejad’s policies. “This is because the policies of Mr Ahmadinejad have failed and he has not fulfilled his promises,” he said. “He has to make a lot of noise to tell people that these are the guys responsible for the failures. At the same time, he is trying to rearrange his government in time for the next parliamentary elections.”
Mr Ahmadinejad may now seek a radical shakeup in the foreign ministry. He is also expected to replace the governor of Iran’s central bank, Ebrahim Sheibani, after he reportedly opposed a recent presidential decree cutting interest rates.