“We vowed, ‘both centrifuges and the economy cycle would spin,’ and we kept our promises. We made nuclear energy priceless,” said Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during the March 3 cabinet session.
The President’s remarks faced severe criticism. “Rouhani does not realize the people’s pockets are empty. I recommend he speak less during the remaining months of his administrations’ life,” said Jabbar Kouchakinejad, a member of the Parliament’s (Majlis) Budget Commission, in an interview with Dana News website.
“Rouhani’s assessment or people’s pockets, which one is closer to reality?” Keyhan daily titled in its March 4 edition, slamming the President for his baseless claims. As the mouthpiece of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the paper mentioned the Rouhani administration’s economic failures in the past eight years.
“While the economy’s cycle has fallen in the most unprecedented inflation record in recent decades and does not spin, Rouhani claimed, ‘Today both our economy’s cycle and centrifuges spin better.’ The inflation rate and the poverty line have reached over 50 percent and 100 million rials [$400], respectively, while the poverty line was around 20 million rials in 2013—when Rouhani took office,” Keyhan wrote.
Furthermore, Javan daily, affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), criticized Rouhani for raising false information. “Neither the economy nor centrifuges ran… Talking to the people and official statistics show the truth is another thing,” Javan wrote on March 4.
“Currently, we are far from our nuclear capabilities from 2012 to 2014. Our imports and exports have approximately been half of 2013… For the first time, investment has become less than the total depreciation of capital in the country, which is unprecedented since 1988… The average economic growth was nearly zero in the past eight years,” Javan added.
Vatan-e Emrouz daily also blamed Rouhani for people’s dire living conditions. “Rouhani’s peculiar remarks about his promises in the 2013 Presidential campaign,” titled the daily on March 4. “It was spun, but backwards… the people are experiencing the most extreme living situation since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Nowadays, people purchase meat in installments and face a boom of buying chicken’s legs. Furthermore, edible oil has become rare,” the daily wrote.
“Point-to-point inflation is more than 50 percent. Housing prices have increased by 550 percent. Unprecedented devaluation of rial against the dollar and the average economic growth of zero percent are only parts of the [government’s] record in the financial field,” Vatan-e Emrouz added.
Moreover, the daily warned about public disappointment and society’s backlash against the government’s failures. “The peak of the [Rouhani] administration’s economic failures was when financial grievances ignited protests in the country, which were seized upon by opposition groups,” Vatan-e Emrouz concluded.
Resalat daily, affiliated with the most fundamentalist party of Motalefeh, prodded Rouhani in its March 4 edition. “Rouhani’s latest claim was studied. Nothing is running. Probably, you have vertigo,” the daily wrote.
“Centrifuges’ spinning, which was Iran’s main card in negotiations, has stopped. There is no news about the economy’s cycle. The people’s food basket is shrinking every day. However, those, who had insider trading, are daily becoming richer. They have benefited from disappearing $18 billion of the country’s foreign exchange reserves,” Resalat added, pointing to Rouhani allies’ corruption cases and embezzlements.
And Farhikhtegan daily, controlled by Ali Akbar Velayati, Khamenei’s top advisor and former Foreign Minister, criticized the President. “Rouhani’s comments have no place, and, in fact, the people’s living conditions would not improve easily. The misery index, which contains inflation and unemployment statistics, is at around the 67 mark. This number was below 20 in 2017—when Rouhani was re-appointed by Khamenei and started his second presidency round,” the daily wrote.
These political rivalries on the cusp of the 2021 Presidential elections show confusion among high-ranking officials in Iran. On the one hand, Khamenei’s appointees blame Rouhani and reformists for people’s dire living conditions. On the other hand, Rouhani had precisely followed Khamenei’s path, and he did not have the power to defy Khamenei’s orders.
In the 2017 Presidential campaign, Rouhani exploited public hatred against the suppression and execution, forcing Khamenei to re-appoint him. In Hamedan, he implicitly reminded the notorious background of his rival Ebrahim Raisi, current Judiciary Chief, saying, “Our people will once again announce that they do not want those who only know prison and execution in the past 38 years.”
Rouhani became President. Raisi was defeated, but a few months later, he was appointed as the Judiciary Chief by Khamenei. Raisi’s running mate Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf also become the Majlis Speaker during the controversial Parliamentary elections in February 2020.
In a nutshell, Khamenei pulled the strings to control public hatred and to preserve his rule. However, after the coronavirus outbreak and the government’s horrible management, economic failures, and worsening human rights situation in recent years, the people have declared that they no longer trust the current establishment and pursue fundamental changes.
“Reformists, principalists, the game is over,” protesters frequently chanted during nationwide protests in December 2017-January 2018, November 2019, and January 2020.