The Rise and Fall of VP Eshaq Jahangiri Before and After Presidential Race
Solidarity between Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri and President Hassan Rouhani was obvious from the very first moments of the first televised election debate, when former Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf started to bash Rouhani. Eshaq Jahangiri gave Qalibaf, sitting behind him, what supporters of Rouhani found a thrashing response. Jahangiri shone so brightly on the small screen of the state TV that persuaded Principlist to split Rouhani and Jahangiri during the campaigns. Now, after Rouhani’s reelection, the split is beginning to show. The Principlist media outlets are no longer pushing on however. Those who confirm the differences between Jahangiri and Rouhani believe that the President’s Bureau Chief Mahmoud Vaezi is behind the whole episode. In an interview with Fararu, veteran Reformist figure Ali Soufi has called Jahangiri’s current position in the administration a formality. “If President Rouhani wants Jahangiri to have low-key role, his vice presidency would mean nothing,” he told Fararu. Read the full interview below:
Many observers believe that Mr. Jahangiri’s views have been ignored in the arrangement of Rouhani’s new cabinet. Jahangiri played a significant role in the Rouhani’s reelection campaign. What do think is the cause of the alleged differences?
What Mr. Jahangiri did during the 2017 presidential campaigns was an act of political self-mutilation. He did everything he could for Rouhani and fended for him against organized attacks by the opposing front. Without him, Rouhani would not be able to stand the attacks. Jahangiri’s immature participation in the election raised sensitivities in the Guardian Council and other institutions. Before the election, Jahangiri had opportunities he put at stake by running. As Rouhani’s closest ally during the campaign, Jahangiri was expected to become the President’s right hand. However, we saw that Rouhani shifted away, which led to Jahangiri’s subsided role in the administration. Especially since Vaezi became the President’s Bureau Chief, Jahangiri’s role has become one of formality. Vaezi calls himself a Principlist, but there is a huge difference between his Principlism and that of let’s say Mr. Nahavandian’s. Nahavandian is a genuine Principlist figure and Vaezi is trying to prove his affiliation. Therefore, he want to give the green to the Principlist front. This may include trying to circumvent Jahangiri, by disrupting the link between ministers and the vice president. This was anticipated and became a reality. Naturally, Mr. Jahangiri should have found a more important role. However, based on expediency of his own circle, Rouhani chose another direction, which led to the marginalization of Jahangiri.
You said his marginalization was predictable when Vaezi was appointed as the President’s Bureau Chief. Does that mean Mr. Jahangiri could not predict this himself? If so, why did he accept to become vice president again?
Vaezi’s appointment was not predictable. When that appointment was made, the marginalization was predictable. Vaezi’s role is different with that of Nahavandian. Moreover, it was not predictable that Rouhani would surrender before the scenario. Beside, Jahangiri has a pivotal role in the beginning. But everything changed all of a sudden. Jahangiri’s marginalization could be seen as the outcome of a decision not a procedure in which Vaezi gradually marginalized him. President Rouhani made an abrupt U-turn.
Regardless of that U-turn, Jahangiri won a favorable reputation among the public opinion and even inside the Reformist camp. He was nominated for Tehran municipality and it seems that he has succeeded to pave his way to the 2021 presidential race. Do you think it would be better for him not to join the administration in the current term?
Certainly, Jahangiri did not want to split with Rouhani or make a move that implies such a distance. He had no reason to do so. His role in the previous term was also very effective.
How do you evaluate the likelihood of Jahangiri’s resignation?
Jahangiri remains in the scene. Differences with him may come up and they are for Rouhani to decide. For now, Jahangiri should wait to see what decisions the President will make about him. Is Rouhani happy with his marginalization? If Jahangiri sees that his powers in the administration do not let him make a difference, he should have his last word with Rouhani. If Rouhani approves of Jahangiri’s marginalization, the latter’s vice presidency will not be of much use.
Jahangiri’s brother Mahdi was arrested, sparking a series of attacks on the vice president. Can the arrest cause Jahangiri’s elimination or marginalization in public opinion?
In my opinion, the two have nothing to do with each other. Jahangiri’s popularity during the presidential campaigns turned him into a potential rival for the 2021 election in the eyes of some Principlists. Thus, it turned out that some may want to put pressure on Jahangiri and document Qalibaf’s claims made during the presidential debates. However, I do not believe Jahangiri wants to remain vice president at any cost.
What prospects do you imagine for Jahangiri? Do you think he can make it to the 2021 presidential race?
I believe the public acts quite vigilantly regarding certain issues and understands the targeting behind pressures. The society can tell between real episodes and those with something behind the scene. The fact that his brother was arrested causes no backlash for Mr. Jahangiri. At least not the kind of backlash we see in the cybersphere over the arrest of Hossein Fereidoun, President Rouhani’s brother.