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Iranian lawmakers opposed to education minister fail to win his dismissal

Iranian lawmakers opposed to education minister fail to win his dismissal

Opponents of Iran's education minister failed Wednesday to win enough parliamentary votes to have the official dismissed in the second serious attempt by some lawmakers here to challenge President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The parliament voted 132 to 89, with 17 abstentions, in favor of keeping Mahmoud Farshidi as education minister, said parliament speaker, Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, after the four-hour session broadcast live on state-run radio. A majority of the parliament is needed to dismiss a minister.
During the session, Ahmadinejad defended Farshidi, 56, who has come under criticism by some reformists who claim he ignored teacher demands for salary raises.
"During his term, we have progressed more than before in many fields including construction of new schools, however, there are historically ... problems in the department," the hard-line president said.
Earlier this year teachers staged three peaceful protests in front of the parliament building demanding raise in their salaries. About 1.1 million teachers and educational staff in Iran are in charge of teaching of some 16 million students.
"Under the law, the government should increase the salaries of its staff corresponding to the inflation rate. But it was not realized in the teachers' case. Is it justice?" said Adel Azar, a reformist lawmaker. During Ahmadinejad's presidential campaign two years ago, bringing justice to Iranians was one of his promises.
A group of conservatives in the parliament also supported the impeachment, objecting the minister's indifference toward an internal education ministry case that they claimed was an insult to Islam's Prophet Muhammad.
In January, the Ministry of Education held an exam during the teachers' on-the-job training program in which some questions were related to the personal life of the prophet. One of the multiple choice questions asked if the prophet ate food using two, three, four or five fingers.
"The essential point of our opposition to the minister is related to an insult to the Prophet Muhammad, which the minister did not react appropriately to," said Mohammad Mirmohammadi, a conservative lawmaker.
The impeachment attempt was the second time some lawmakers have requested a Cabinet minister be dismissed since Ahmadinejad came to power in August 2005.
In October, opponents of Iran's minister of agriculture also failed to receive enough votes for him to be dismissed.
In September, Ahmadinejad replaced the minister of social affairs, the first change to his Cabinet, after a presidential committee found his performance lacking. Ahmadinejad's Cabinet comprises 21 ministers. Parliament must confirm each appointment.
Impeachment votes are infrequent; however it is not unusual for a president to experience at least one attempt to dismiss a member of his Cabinet. Voting to impeach a cabinet minister only requires a request by 10 of parliament's 290 lawmakers.