Iran’s central bank chief dismissed for taking part in upcoming presidential elections

Tehran: President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday has rejected Iran’s central bank chief, Abdolnasser Hemmati’s candidature for the upcoming presidential elections on June 18.

The Iranian cabinet on Sunday said in a statement that Hemmati was dismissed as his candidacy ‘prevents him from having enough presence at the central bank and performing the vital duties and responsibilities of the governor in the sensitive areas of money and foreign currencies”, reported Al Jazeera.

Hemmati will be replaced by his deputy, Akbar Komjiani, who has also replaced Hemmati in an economic meeting chaired by Rouhani on Sunday. Komjiani has two decades of experience in the central bank.

If not for his dismissal, Hemmati would have led the central bank until 2023, after which his governorship could be extended for another five-year term, Al Jazeera reported.

Known as a veteran of Iran’s banking and insurance sectors and a former journalist with state television, Hemmati took over the reins of the central bank in July 2018, when Iran’s currency had taken a major hit after former US President Donald Trump had pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed harsh sanctions

However, the rial continued its steep devaluation under Hemmati and hit a rate of 320,000 against the US dollar in the open market in October 2020.

The currency has since partially recovered and had strengthened to a rate of about 210,000 rials per dollar last month as talks in Vienna to restore the nuclear deal and lift US sanctions continue.

According to Al Jazeera, Iran’s central bank suffers from an acute lack of independence from the government and excessive money printing has been one of the top factors contributing to rampant inflation in the past four decades.

During this, Hemmati has been trying to push back against accusations of being one of the main authorities responsible for current economic difficulties, saying he had risked his reputation to change longstanding exchange and monetary policies.

In an election that is expected to have low voter turnout amid public disillusionment, the candidate has also said wishes to be the voice of the “silent majority”.

Last week, Iran’s Guardian Council, a 12-member constitutional vetting body overseen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has announced seven candidates to run for the country’s upcoming presidential elections on June 18.

The members were announced by Iran’s interior ministry, which includes Hemmati, incumbent judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi, Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaei, former nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili, deputy parliament speaker Amir Hossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, former vice president Mohsen Mehralizadeh and lawmaker Alireza Zakani, reported Al Jazeera.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, polls will not be to operate at full capacity, so the interior ministry has said it could extend voting until 2 am on June 19. However, health minister Saeed Namaki on Tuesday warned that if health protocols are broken during the election, Iran could soon face a fifth deadly wave of the virus.