A conservative attempt to fire a second Rohani cabinet minister flopped last week as the Majlis voted to keep Education Minister Ali-Asghar Fani in office with the support of almost two-thirds of the deputies.
The Education Ministry handles K-12 schools, but not higher education.
The vote was an embarrassment for the hard right and hinted that many conservative deputies are losing patience with extremists.
It only takes 10 signatures for a cabinet minister to be forced to come before the Majlis, answer questions and face a vote of confidence. Fani’s opponents mustered some 64 signatures to force him to come to the chamber to defend himself.
But on the vote of confidence, Fani’s opponents were only able to draw 12 more votes.
The vote last Wednesday was 167-76 with 13 abstentions, giving him the support of 65.2 percent.
Almost two years ago, when President Rohani nominated Fani to be education minister, he was approved on a vote of confidence of 185-53 with 24 abstentions or 70.6 percent support. So, his support slipped only five percentage points despite the railing of the opposition.
Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani has made clear his opposition to efforts to tie up cabinet members in votes of confidence in the Majlis, which may have helped Fani. The caucus of the largest conservative group, which does not include the hardliners, had voted earlier to support Fani. That meant the assumption going into the vote was that Fani would win big.
Fani stood accused of failing to urge the president to provide schools with a larger budget and to expand the educational space in poorer areas of the country. He was also accused of allowing his ministry to become the campaign headquarters for the Reformist faction running in next February’s Majlis elections.
Rohani has been in office a few weeks short of two years. In that time, the Majlis has ousted one of his cabinet ministers, Science Minister Reza Faraji-Dana, who, despite his title, was charged with overseeing higher education, a very sensitive post given the propensity of college students to demonstrate against governments.