Iran's parliament dismissed a cabinet minister on Tuesday over his fake degree from Oxford University, in a vote seen as a humiliating blow to hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Iranian leader has been at loggerheads with the assembly before, but the impeachment of Interior Minister Ali Kordan and his ouster Tuesday were the first high-profile confrontation between the president and the 290-member parliament, dominated by hard-liners.
It was also a sign of Ahmadinejad's popularity tumbling more ahead of the crucial presidential balloting next June.
Ahmadinejad is expected to run for a second term, but the months ahead are critical if he wants to try to rebut critics who point to his unfulfilled campaign promises of improving the lives of ordinary Iranians and bringing oil revenues to the poorer parts of the country.
Kordan's reputation initially became tainted during his confirmation debate in August, when several lawmakers argued he was unqualified for the post and claimed his Oxford degree was a fake. At the time, Kordan was approved by a relatively slim margin, reflecting those concerns.
He initially argued his degree was real. His ministry even published a certificate, dated June 2000 and imprinted with an Oxford seal, meant to prove its authenticity.
The document, in English, was riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes. Oxford denied it had ever awarded an honorary doctorate of law to Kordan, who then admitted the degree was fake.
Ahmadinejad defended Kordan, shrugging off degrees in general as "torn paper" unnecessary for serving the people.
The vote in parliament Tuesday was 188-45 to oust Kordan, whose office is in charge of holding elections and local administrations in Iran. Many Ahmadinejad allies and hard-liners also voted in favor of Kordan's outser, which went into effect immediately.
Ahmadinejad now has to propose a candidate to replace Kordan but his choice will need parliament approval. That will likely keep the affair in the political limelight and expose Ahmadinejad to more criticism.
Kordan's dismissal brings the number of ousted cabinet ministers to 10 during the three years of Ahmadinejad's reign. Under Iran's constitution, one more dismissal would require the entire cabinet to face a confidence vote in parliament. Lawmakers have hinted they are considering impeaching two more ministers.
The Iranian president has already come under attack from both reformers and conservatives, who brought him to power but now complain he spends too much time on fiery anti-US rhetoric rather than managing the country.
Middle-class Iranians, dismayed by plummeting living standards, often scorn Ahmadinejad's economic naivetÃ©.
In July, Ahmadinejad predicted oil prices would never fall below $100 per barrel - a rhetoric subsequently made ridiculous by the global financial crisis and the falling oil prices. On Tuesday, the oil prices hovered around $63 a barrel. Iran crude sells below $60.
Under Ahmadinejad, Iran has suffered international isolation, skyrocketing prices and threats, from the US and Israel, of military strikes to halt Iran's nuclear program.
Ahmadinejad, who last weekend called the impeachment proceedings illegal, did not attend Kordan's hearing Tuesday.
During the proceedings, Kordan defended himself, saying his impeachment was a conspiracy by foreign enemies, including the US and Israel, and told lawmakers that since he became a minister, "there's been heavy media propaganda against me abroad."
But lawmakers rejected the defense as irrelevant to the issue over his fake degree.
Lawmaker Bijan Nobaveh, a conservative, said the no-confidence vote restores the country's credibility and the Islamic system's "prestige" since Kordan's actions had undermined the "people's trust in the system."
Nobaveh asserted Kordan has no degree from any university, including Iranian ones. Fellow conservative lawmaker Reza Akrami said Kordan was a "victim of his own dishonesty."
The case also gave fodder to the Iranian sense of humor.
As Tuesday's ouster approached, Teheran residents coined a new joke. The Oxford English Dictionary, it goes, has a new word: "Kordanize," meaning to "become an important person, such as a minister, by presenting a fake certificate."
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>