Iran’s central bank chief dismissed after presidential bid

Abdolnaser Hemmati says President Hassan Rouhani asked him to step aside during campaign for June 18 election

Abdolnaser Hemmati (C), Governor of the Central Bank of Iran, listens to a speech in parliament in Tehran on October 7, 2018. AFP
Abdolnaser Hemmati (C), Governor of the Central Bank of Iran, listens to a speech in parliament in Tehran on October 7, 2018. AFP

Abdolnaser Hemmati, the governor of the Central Bank of Iran, has been dismissed from his post while he runs in the country’s presidential election, the semi-official Fars and Tasnim news agencies reported on Sunday.

According to Fars, Mr Hemmati told listeners on the social media application Clubhouse on Saturday night that President Hassan Rouhani had concerns about the impact of his election campaign on financial markets and raised the possibility of replacing him.

Mr Rouhani "told me that if you stand in the election, you cannot remain the central bank chief because it affects monetary and exchange rate policies", Mr Hemmati reportedly said.

"I told him that I had no problem with his decision," he said.

Iranians are set to elect a successor to Mr Rouhani on June 18 amid widespread discontent over a deep economic and social crisis, and after the violent repression of waves of protests in the winter of 2017-18 and in 2019.

Iran's candidate-vetting Guardian Council last week approved seven mainly ultraconservative candidates to run in the election from a field of about 600 hopefuls.

The council – a conservative-dominated, unelected body – disqualified moderate conservative Ali Larijani and First Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, as well as firebrand former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The move appears to have cleared the way for a strong run by the ultraconservative judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi.

Meanwhile, the deputy chief of the Budget and Planning Organisation, Hamid Pourmohammadi, denied media reports that he had replaced Mr Hemmati as central bank governor, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

State TV and other state media also denied the reports.

A record 57 per cent of Iranians stayed away from legislative elections in February last year after thousands of candidates, many of them moderates and reformists, were disqualified.

The presidential election comes at a critical time amid talks with world powers aimed at reviving a 2015 nuclear deal that offered sanctions relief in return for Iran's agreement to curtail its nuclear programme.

The accord has been on life support since then-US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from it in 2018 and re-imposed crippling sanctions on Iran.

Iran, which retaliated against the US move by rolling back its nuclear commitments, is seeking the lifting of the sanctions.

Iran is also battling the Middle East's deadliest outbreak of coronavirus, which has killed nearly 80,000 people, according to official figures. The health ministry on Thursday called for people to avoid rallies during the election campaign.

Updated: May 30, 2021 07:22 PM

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