Najafi’s Mayoralty: Making a Difference in Tehran

The new mayor has pledged transparency, promising to disclose every contract signed by the municipality under his watch worth more than 10 billion rials ($262,000)
Najafi’s Mayoralty:  Making a Difference in TehranNajafi’s Mayoralty:  Making a Difference in Tehran

Tehran’s mayoral race has effectively come to an end, with the election of Mohammad Ali Najafi all but certain after other candidates dropped out on Thursday.

Najafi, along with Hossein Marashi, Elaheh Koulaei, and Mohsen Mehralizadeh, had presented their plans on how to manage the huge metropolis. However, shortly after it was announced that the vote would be held at the incoming Tehran City Council’s first session on Sept. 3, everyone but Najafi bowed out, paving the way for his election.

The veteran reformist politician had been the favorite to win since the final list of candidates was announced on July 19. In fact, Marashi, who many thought would pose a strong challenge, had declared his support for Najafi from the beginning.

Running on a platform of employing more women in senior positions, reducing the toxic air pollution and downsizing the municipality, Najafi has pledged to lead Tehran as a mayor, not a politician. And says he will make a difference. Residents of the megapolis of 12 million people hope he is right and will deliver.

“Relations between the Tehran Municipality and the government will improve,” he said during a question-and-answer session after presenting his plans, in a thinly-veiled criticism of outgoing mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who for 12 years ran the show with an iron grip and used his position to mount three unsuccessful bids for the presidency.

“I promise to use all capacities inside and outside the municipality to improve living conditions in Tehran,” the new mayor told the state broadcaster in a phone interview.

Najafi has pledged transparency, promising to disclose every contract signed by the municipality under his watch worth more than 10 billion rials ($262,000).

“Details of all major contracts will be available on the municipality’s website within two months,” he said.

  Who Is Najafi?

Najafi, 66, is a veteran reformist and a senior economic advisor to President Hassan Rouhani. He served as minister of education for eight years under the late president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (1989-97) and was Rouhani’s top choice for the same portfolio in 2013, but failed to secure enough votes in parliament, which at that time was controlled by Rouhani’s political opponents as they had a majority in the law-making institution.

He was later appointed to run the Iran Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization but resigned six months later, citing poor health.

Najafi also served as the head of the Management and Planning Organization from 1997 to 2000.

He has a master’s degree in mathematics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

  Mixed Reaction

Users on social media were rather unconvinced with Najafi’s resume, with many questioning the relevance of his educational background and experience.

“How can a math major run the municipality,” asked a user on social media application Instagram.

“I wish they had picked a younger candidate,” another added, while some implored Najafi to place young people in high-profile positions.

Najafi’s health has also been questioned with many expressing doubt over his strength and stamina to address Tehran’s visibly unending problems.

However, many believe the choice to elect Najafi was a good one.

“He’s the first Tehrani to take the reins at TM in over a decade, he knows our problems,” one Instagram user said.

Some also point to Najafi’s experience as the head of the once-powerful MPO, arguing that it should help the new mayor and his men reduce the TM’s mountain of debt and do more with less.


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