Reuters: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hit back at Iran’s parliament on Saturday for sacking one of his most loyal ministers, branding the impeachment unlawful and calling the competence of the legislature into question.
By Hashem Kalantari
TEHRAN (Reuters) – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hit back at Iran’s parliament on Saturday for sacking one of his most loyal ministers, branding the impeachment unlawful and calling the competence of the legislature into question.
The spat is the latest evidence of serious rifts between Ahmadinejad and other prominent members of the ruling elite, infighting which has become more apparent since reformist protests that followed the June 2009 vote were suppressed.
“The impeachment … is illegal and (I) will be speaking to the Iranian public about the performance of the legislative body in the near future,” Ahmadinejad told reporters, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.
Lawmakers voted on Tuesday to impeach Transport Minister Hamid Behbahani, ostensibly over passenger safety issues, but analysts said the move was meant as a warning shot from a parliament which feels Ahmadinejad has repeatedly ignored its constitutional rights.
The president did not attend the impeachment hearing, the first since his re-election in June 2009. Parliament speaker Ali Larijani, one of Ahmadinejad’s most prominent rivals, called that snub a violation of the law.
Dismissing parliament’s concerns, Ahmadinejad reappointed Behbahani to be caretaker minister — something he can do for a three-month period — and said he would speak out to expose the assembly’s behavior.
“If the issues underlying the impeachment should apply to the minister, they would apply to the impeachers more by 100- fold,” Ahmadinejad said, calling Behbahani “the best minister of the government.”
Last month, Ahmadinejad accused the heads of parliament and the judiciary of “interfering” in his government’s business.
Among parliamentary criticisms of Ahmadinejad are that he has been slow to submit national budgets for their scrutiny and has failed to disburse funds for projects such as the expansion of Tehran’s metro.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has consistently voiced support for Ahmadinejad, instructed the executive and legislative branches of government in August to stop squabbling.
“We are all one family and have one big mission. Administering the country is the focal point,” Ahmadinejad said at the time after a meeting with Larijani. But hostilities resumed not long afterwards, notably when he appointed his own foreign policy advisers, circumventing the Foreign Ministry.
Ahmadinejad said he would not pursue legal measures against the minister’s impeachment and planned to merge transport policy-making into another ministry as part of an effort to streamline government.
(Writing by Robin Pomeroy; editing by Mark Heinrich)