Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s pick for first vice president officially withdrew from the post after the supreme leader ordered Ahmadinejad to sack his deputy, the ISNA news agency reported on Saturday.
“Following the order by the supreme leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei), I do not consider myself as first vice president anymore and will serve the people wherever else needed,” Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaie said in a statement carried by ISNA.
Media reports Friday night said the supreme leader had rejected Ahmadinejad’s pick and ordered him fired.
“It is necessary that the appointment is cancelled,” Khamenei said in a letter to the president, adding that the appointment of Rahim-Mashaie as first vice president was neither to Ahmadinejad’s nor the government’s advantage and would only lead to differences among the president’s supporters.
Ahmadinejad appointed Rahim-Mashaie last week as first vice president, making him de-facto acting president until Ahmadinejad’s inauguration early next month. Ahmadinejad won a second term in a June 12 election, which the opposition said was marred by fraud.
The appointment led to widespread criticism, even within pro-Ahmadinejad circles, because of an earlier remark by the vice president that Iran’s political differences with Israel had nothing to do with Israelis and Jews and that Iran was a friend of the Israeli people.
While Ahmadinejad needs parliamentary approval for his ministers, he is free to select his vice presidents.
According to the constitution, however, the supreme leader has the final say on all state affairs and can veto executive and legislative decisions.
This is the second time in five weeks that Khamenei, who had put his stamp of approval on Ahmadinejad’s re-election, openly voiced criticism of the president.