The impeachment of Abdolreza Sheikholeslami, the Minister of Welfare and Labour in the Islamic Republic, today quickly turned into a farce and became a slinging match between Ali Larijani, the Iraqi born speaker of the Majlis and Ahmadinejad.
While Ahmadinejad revealed an audio tape that showed the corruption of the Larijani brothers, Larijani went as far as accusing Ahmadinejad and his associates of having ties with MeK! Majlis also voted for the removal of the Welfare and Labour Minister.
Background to the Impeachment:
This was not the first time, Ahmadinejad's minister of Welfare and Labour, Sheikholeslami, was facing an impeachment. In April last year too, the Majlis tried to impeach Sheikholeslami. The reason for his impeachment was the appointment of Saeed Mortazavi
, a former prosecutor with a long list of charges and accusations against him ranging from murder, rape and embezzlement, as the head of the Welfare Ministry's Social Security Funds, a fund awash with money from pension funds of working people.
A deal was struck at the previous impeachment of the minister between the government and the deputies. The Welfare minister promised to remove Mortezavi from his position in return for the MPs revoking their signatures from the impeachment.
Saeed Mortezavi, even wrote a letter which was read by Hadad Adel
, whose daughter is married to the Supreme Leader's son, to the Majlis deputies. In the letter, Mortezavi swore on his honour that he will go if the MPs revoked their signatures. The MPs revoked their signatures but Mortezavi remained in his position and simply moved his furniture into another room :)
Mortezavi's troubles were not over however, not only the Supreme Audit Bureau said his stay as the head of the Social Security Fund was illegal, the executive board also voted him out. Mortezavi ignored the board and the audit bureau and remained in his position with the firm support of Ahmadinejad.
Today, the Minister of Labour and Welfare had to face the Majlis deputies again for impeachment. Ahmdinejad gambled on his usual tactics, i.e. "if you go after my cronies, I will spill the beans on you!" A tactic which so far seems to have worked with the Supreme Leader.
Ali Larijani was warned by an Ahmadinejad associate before the session started that if the impeachment went ahead, Ahmadinejad will play an audio file. In a repeat of Ahmadinejad's pre-election televised debate with Mir Hussein Moussavi, he kept asking Larijani "Shall I tell? Shall I tell?"
Ali Larijani seemed to be at the end of his tether with Ahmadinejad however and risked to let Ahmadinejad play the audio file.
Ahmadinejad tried to put Larijani under pressure, saying members of the Majlis board had asked him not to play the audio because it was so explosive, but Ali Larijani ignored his threats and said "Go Ahead, Say it all and don't miss out on any bits".
Ahmadinejad said the audio file was only a snippet of the entire meeting between Ali Larijani's brother, Fazel with Saeed Mortezavi, a mere 25 minutes from a 24 hour recording. As the audio started, some MPs started to protest, the audio was not clear, so Ahmadinejad started to read a transcript of the audio. The transcript is too long to quote here word by word, but basically Larijani's brother, Fazel, wanted some quid pro quid favours from Mortezavi for some lucrative financial opportunities, giving examples of how in the past he had exploited the positions of his two powerful brothers, one as the head of the legislative powers and another as the head of the judiciary to pave ways and smooth things over for others. The transcript is like dynamite, it shows corruption, nepotism and cronyism spread to every core of the Islamic Republic. In any accountable and democratic country, this transcript alone would bring down the entire establishment.
Larijani however seemed unmoved by Ahmadinejad's audio and spoke after Ahmadinejad had stepped down from the podium. He accused Ahmadinejad and his clique as acting like Mafia and said "what if I had filmed your brother's meeting with me in which he talked about the corruption of your associates and their ties with the MeK!" - listeners who were following the live Majlis sessions on the radio, must have grasped for air at this point. This was Punch and Judy, Islamic Republic style. MeK or PMOI are the exiled organisation who sided with Saddam during the war and assassinated tens of Islamic Republic figures in the eighties, paying a heavy price with thousands of their members and supporters having been executed in retaliation by the regime. To accuse the associates of the head of executive power in Iran to have ties with the PMOI is no light hearted matter.
Larijani went on further and addressed Ahmainejad by saying "You do not even adhere to the elementary principles of ethics and it is such behaviours by you that are destroying the traditions and norms of the country"
Ahmadinejad wanted to get back behind the podium but Larijani said he had his chance. Ahmadinejad threatened to leave and Larijani said "please do". The vote was cast: 24 abstentions, 56 against the impeachment and 192 voted for the minister to be removed from his post.
Potentially this could lead to Ahmadinejad having to ask for a vote of confidence for his entire cabinet all over again. The constitution demands this if more than half of the cabinet ministers have been replaced. Ahamdinejad however has muddied the water by merging some ministries together and the Guardian Council will have to decide soon.
And what will the opposition outside Iran in receipt of all sorts of grants and fundings from various Western bodies do now? Hold yet another conference? light candles? Islamic Republic continues to survive because it has the most incompetent and most unimaginative opposition outside Iran.