Iran minister dismissal deals blow to Rouhani

Science minister accused of backing pro-Western voices at universities dismissed in vote of no confidence.

Rouhani defended his minister and urged MPs to have greater confidence in him [AP]

Iranian politicians have dismissed the country’s science minister over his alleged support for pro-Western voices at universities, dealing a blow to moderate President Hassan Rouhani.

The no-confidence vote against Science, Research and Technology Minister Reza Faraji Dana was seen as a sharp rebuke of Rouhani, who was elected last year on promises of greater openness and diplomatic engagement with the West.

Out of the 270 politicians present on Wednesday, 145 voted against Dana. The chamber has 290 seats.

The politcians were angered by Dana’s support for teachers seen as pro-Western or who had been involved in opposition rallies following the disputed 2009 presidential election.

They also accused him of tolerating student publications that question Islamic teachings.

Sadegh Zibakalam, a professor of political ccience at Tehran University, told Al Jazeera the dismissal was a blow to the government and a failing for those who supported Rouhani.

“We never thought hardliners could topple the minister, but they managed to do it,” he said, adding that Dana had readmitted students and professors previously expelled by hardliners.

“They [Rouhani’s supporters] failed to curb some of their radical and hardliner colleagues. That is a very dangerous scenario.

“The main bone of contention really is the present nuclear negotiation. The hardliners are very unhappy about the progress Rouhani is making with the west over its nuclear programme.”

Ghanbar Naderi, a journalist with Iran’s state-run conservative Kayhan newspaper, Dana had made many enemies within the interior ministry.

“This man purged  58 percent of university officials and staff over the last nine months, and replaced them with those with political affiliations with President Rouhani.”

Dana is the first minister in the current government to be the subject of a censure motion.

He was Rouhani’s third choice as Minister for Science, Research and Technology after parliament rejected the first two nominees.

Rouhani on Wednesday defended his minister and urged MPs to have greater confidence in him.

Reformers and moderates had tried in the past few days to defend Dana’s record in office, accusing ultra-conservatives of wanting to weaken the government.

Source: Al Jazeera, AP