Will Leaked Payslips Scandal bring down Rouhani?

In the latest turn of events, the CEOs of four major banks — Refah Kargaran, Mellat, Saderat and Mehr — have been dismissed from their positions. The entire management team of the National Development Fund — including Hosseini — has been forced to resign. In addition, Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Ali Tayebnia has set a salary cap of $5,500 monthly for bank executives, with wider regulations for public firms to be announced.

It is not yet clear whether these measures will be enough to calm the popular outrage. The president’s cultural adviser, Hesam al-Din Ashna, has acknowledged that the leaks have stirred public opinion against the Rouhani administration, striking a heavy blow to its social prestige. Mohebbian, the conservative political strategist, told Al-Monitor, “The leaks have put the government in hot water. In addition, the lack of an appropriate media strategy to address the revelations and deal with their reverberations has further weakened the Rouhani administration’s position.”

Mohebbian also said there may be profound adverse effects from the revelations of excess pay, which he described as causing “unjustifiable rifts between high-ranking officials and members of society.” He emphasized, “The [revelation of the] exorbitant salaries exposed an important social harm: a new social class that was formed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Members of this new class enjoy prosperity and certain social and economic benefits while marching under the banner of revolutionary slogans. The presence of this group could have serious political ramifications, because it would divide the society into two categories: the minority high-ranking managers, or ‘haves,’ and the majority masses, or ‘have-nots.’ The creation of another social gap would disappoint the oppressed people who have been supportive of the revolution.”

Mohebbian concluded, “Although the people don’t necessarily see the government as the guilty party, the scandalous financial leaks will have their social effects and in the long run could tarnish the image of the entire political establishment in Iran.”

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