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Iranian Parliament Impeaches Minister of Transportation

by ALI CHENAR in Tehran

01 Feb 2011 20:00Comments
502808_orig.jpgLong-time Ahmadinejad associate dismissed in aftermath of IranAir disaster.

[ dispatch ] Members of the Majles, Iran's parliament, impeached Minister of Transportation Hamid Behbahani today.

The impeachment debate took place despite the absence of both Behbahani and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It is customary that both the president and the minister at risk of dismissal are present at such a legislative hearing. Ahmad Tavakoli, an influential Majles deputy who supported the impeachment, said, "I have heard the president has ordered the minister not to attend this session. However, the word of law and the position of this house oblige us to carry on."

Behbahani received a doctoral degree in civil engineering from University of Florida. He is a professor at the Iran University of Science and Technology, where he supervised Ahmadinejad's doctoral thesis. He was appointed minister of transportation in 2008.

Those in favor of sacking Behbahani pointed to the country's high rate of road accidents and aviation disasters in explaining their lack of confidence in the minister. Aziz Akbaraian, a representative from Karaj, argued that given Behbahani's performance, Iranians would be safer riding mules on the country's thoroughfares. Referring to the recent plane crash in which 78 people were killed, Akbaraian said, "When the Orumieh incident happened, I cried. Those people died because we failed to do our job."

Almost all of those who spoke in favor of the impeachment hinted that they had been pressed by representatives of the Ahmadinejad administration to withdraw the motion. Ahmad Reza Dastgheb, from Shiraz, told the legislature, "If I support this impeachment, following my conscience and duties, why do the people of my district have to pay the price? What they have done to the minister that the government representative threatens me that their roads will go unpaved?"

Despite the administration's lobbying efforts, the Majles approved the impeachment. Of the 234 deputies registering present, 147 voted in favor of the minister's dismissal, 78 opposed the move, and nine abstained. Behbahani has now lost his office.

Copyright © 2011 Tehran Bureau

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