President Ebrahim Raisi appointed a caretaker for Iran's Ministry of Labor, Cooperatives and Social Welfare within minutes of resignation of Hojjat Abdolmaleki.
The pace of events led many to believe that Abdolmaleki was told to resign under pressure from the media and the parliament as weeks of protests of protests by pensioners and teachers across the country threatened political stability.
Some of the government's critics including reformist commentator Abbas Abdi wrote a June 14 tweet that "Removing Abdolmaleki from his post was a positive step by Raisi and his move should be supported."
For months, politicians, experts and many in parliament were asking Raisi to fire some of his ministers who seemed too weak to deal with a worsening economic crisis.
Like many other Raisi ministers and aides, Mohammad Hadi Zahedi Vafa the caretaker who is likely to be introduced to the parliament as the Minister of Labor is also a graduate of the ideologically notorious Imam Sadeq University and a member of ultraconservative Paydari Party. He is also close to Raisi's adviser Saeed Jalili, an unwavering Shiite ideologue.
In terms of his ideological and political loyalties Zahedi does not bring any change of direction to the ministry, beyond some tweaking with pension and salary numbers. The crux of the matter is that the government is not able to control inflation and people’s incomes have shrunk by more than 25 percent just since March.
President Ebrahim Raisi and Saeed Jalali in August 2021
Until Tuesday morning, Zahedi was a deputy to Vice President Mohammad Mokhber, coordinating economic supervision and infrastructure affairs. When Raisi was first introducing his ministers to parliament last September, Zahedi was Mokhber’s and Jalili's choice for the minister of economy, but Raisi appointed Ehsan Khandouzi.
He was also a candidate for the chairmanship of Iran's government owned Central Insurance Company, but again he did not get the job. At the time, Zahedi was working at the Center for the Iranian-Islamic Model for Progress. The center's mission based on an order issued by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is to make Iran the epicenter of Islamic civilization by 2065.
The Labor Ministry will remain under the control of Paydari Party and the Imam Sadeq Alumni gang. Zahedi, 59, studied at Imam Sadeq University in the field of Islamic Knowledge. He went to Canada in 2001 where he received a Ph.D. in economics from Ottawa University and dedicated his dissertation to Prophet Mohammed’s daughter Zahra.
Immediately after returning from Canada, he was appointed as dean of the faculties of Islamic Knowledge and Economics at Imam Sadeq University and kept the position until 2015. According to records filed at the Center for the Iranian-Islamic Model for Progress, he speaks English and Arabic.
Zahedi was a deputy minister of economy under President Ahmadinejad from 2005 to 2009 but there are no records of his activities in the government after 2009. There are references that he was an aide to Jalili at the Supreme Council of National Security and a member of the nuclear negotiating team. Meanwhile he supported Jalili in the 2013 presidential election and wrote his economic plan.
Following Abdolmaleki's resignation and Zahedi's appointment, Abdolhossein Rouholamini, a lawmaker for Tehran said that at least another two or three ministers should resign before they are fired or impeached, so that the government and the parliament could focus on dealing with the current economic crisis.