In revealing new details of his budget bill, Rouhani named, for the first time, the variety of state institutions, including cultural centers, that have received enormous funds and unconditional support from the regime. He attributed the move to a desire for transparency and an attempt to curtail corrupt use of state funds. The reaction on Iranian social media and in the local press was quick and harsh. People began attacking conservative and hard-line centers and clerics for taking so much from government coffers.
“We couldn’t allow him to cut off our lifeline,” a producer at the regime production studios said after Rouhani revealed his new budget. “He and his supporters want to silence us by taking away our funding. But we will not be silenced. We will show him that people don’t agree with him.”
As Rouhani stated Dec. 10, “Twenty-five percent of the money market is in the hands of six fraudulent institutions. When they want, they interfere with the money market, the gold market, the real estate market.” He went on to say that he had met with the supreme leader to discuss how the lives of 3-4 million people are being ruined by the actions of these fraudulent institutions.
He urged parliament not to be bullied by these vested interests, saying, “I’ve gotten pressure from all sides. You will not believe the pressure and letters I started to get from all different institutions of the state: ‘You’re making a mistake. Don’t go after these people and their organizations.’”
The protests that began on Dec. 28 in Mashhad were a response to Rouhani from hard-liners for his remarks on the budget as well as his other attempts to curtail hard-line forces. Much of the analysis on the reasons behind the sudden outpouring of protests points to its origin in hard-liners’ attempts to organize anti-Rouhani rallies in the lead-up to the annual pro-regime 9 Dey rally, established by the supreme leader in 2009 to celebrate the suppression of the Green Movement.