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After elections, is Rouhani’s economy minister now safe?

All three members of parliament who summoned the finance and economy minister failed to make it into Iran's next parliament.

With the majority of election results counted, officials from President Hassan Rouhani's administration are looking forward to working with a parliament that — while it continues to include conservatives — has excluded many of the more combative hard-liners.

Perhaps no one is more relieved by the election results than Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Ali Tayebnia. Tayebnia was summoned three times by this parliament and received an official warning each time. According to a report by Iranian Students' News Agency, Tayebnia was on the threshold of being Rouhani’s second minister to be impeached. However, all three parliamentarians who summoned Tayebnia failed to win a seat in the future parliament.

The case of Tayebnia shows why these elections were so important for Rouhani. While many economic issues in Iran are far from being addressed, some of the criticism Tayebnia faced seemed more political in nature. He received his first summons just four months after entering the ministry to answer questions in response to comments made by the head of the Central Bank, Valiollah Seif.

Hard-line Iran member of parliament Hamid Rasaei summoned Tayebnia the second time. Though the questions were economic in nature, rumors swirled that Rasaei’s issues with the Foreign Ministry and the nuclear deal were the reasons for the summons. Rasaei was disqualified from running again for allegedly secretly making recordings with government officials.

Former Mahmoud Ahmadinejad adviser and hard-line Iran member of parliament Mehrdad Bazrpash brought Tayebnia to parliament the third time to question him regarding policies to raise taxes. After the summons, a recording of all of Bazrpash’s accusations was leaked. The recording did not include any of Tayebnia’s responses. A number of parliamentarians complained afterward that Bazrpash’s summons was more political than economic.

At an international car conference March 1, Rouhani struck a conciliatory tone when discussing the election results. He said that regardless of which faction is the majority and which is the minority, “more cooperation than before” has to be the view of everyone.

As of the latest results, 221 seats of the 290-seat parliament have been chosen. The remaining seats will be determined in a runoff election, though the date is not yet set.

Given the lack of formal party structure in Iran and loose alliance system, the breakdown of Reformist, conservative or moderate can be misleading. For instance, Tasnim News Agency reported that conservatives have the edge so far. However, their list included Speaker Ali Larijani as a conservative. Larijani, while certainly within the traditional conservative camp, ran as an independent in the election and has been allied with the moderate Rouhani on many issues.

What is also notable in the Tasnim list is that there are many independent candidates. In smaller cities in particular, party affiliation is less significant than name recognition and reputation.

According to Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, 62% of eligible voters in the country voted and 50% of eligible voters in Tehran voted. Fazli said that before the elections there were rumors that security institutions in the country would attempt to interfere in the elections, but he said that there was no pressure applied against his ministry throughout the process.

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