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Iran: Still Seeking A Stable Government

  • Bill Samii --> A session of the Iranian parliament (file photo) (AFP) The Iranian legislature is scheduled to vote on four cabinet nominees on 9 November, having rejecting four of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's choices in August. Parliamentary leaders have expressed confidence that the four new candidates will secure votes of confidence, but comments from other members of parliament indicate that the process will not be trouble-free, particularly for the petroleum minister nominee.

It was clear beforehand that Ahmadinejad's nominees would encounter problems, and concerns only increased after he submitted a list of 21 people who had little experience in such high-level positions. There were 284 members of parliament present at the 24 August session when the voting took place, and each nominee had to secure a minimum of 143 votes to win approval.

The four positions that remained unfilled at the end of the day were cooperatives minister, education and training minister, petroleum minister, and welfare and social security minister.

Ahmadinejad subsequently appointed the unsuccessful nominee for petroleum minister, Ali Saidlu, as his vice president for executive affairs. Ahmadinejad said that Saidlu was rejected because of a campaign by a so-called Petroleum Ministry mafia, "Iran Daily" reported on 1 October.

The New Names

Ahmadinejad submitted the names of four new prospective cabinet members to parliamentary speaker Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel on 2 November, IRNA reported. The nominees are Sadeq Mahsuli for petroleum minister, Mahmud Farshidi for education minister, Parviz Kazemi for welfare and social security minister, and Mohammad Nazemi-Ardakani for cooperatives minister.

The nominees are relative unknowns in national affairs. On the one hand, this could represent the fulfillment of the president's promise to bring new faces into government, as well as the rise of the second post-revolutionary generation that Ahmadinejad personifies. On the other hand, this may be an attempt by Ahmadinejad to have cabinet members who are beholden to him, who have no personal power base, and who are therefore unable or unlikely to pursue personal agendas.

A 6 November commentary in the "Etemad" daily noted that the president has chosen people he can trust, and they all have connections with the Tehran municipality, the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, or the university where Ahmadinejad taught, or they are close to deputy parliamentary speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar. The commentary said many legislators question this selection process, and it is far from certain if they will give the nominees votes of confidence. The reformist stance on the nominees is unclear, the commentary continued, but the more traditional hard-liners, such as the Islamic Coalition Party, are unhappy that the president did not consult with them.

The Islamic Coalition Party's Hamid Reza Taraqi noted that the executive branch has not sought the conservatives' cooperation, "Farhang-i Ashti" reported on 6 November. If the president wants their support in making appointments or dismissals, Taraqi continued, he should alter his attitude toward the conservatives, he said.

Bahonar said on 6 November that the legislature's conservative majority has decided to vote in favor of Ahmadinejad's ministerial nominees, Mehr and Fars news agencies reported. Other legislators echoed this sentiment the next day, Mehr News Agency reported. Hussein Sobhani-Nia dismissed allegations of a conflict between the executive and legislative branches; and lawmakers Gholam-Reza Mesbahi Moghaddam of Tehran and Seyyed Nezam Molla Hoveizeh of Dasht-i Azadegan predicted that all four would win approval. Tehran representative Ahmad Tavakoli also predicted that the four nominees would secure votes of confidence, "Hemayat" reported on 7 November. He said national interests require a complete cabinet so the administration can do its work.

A Rich Petroleum Minister?

However, there is controversy surrounding Mahsuli, the nominee for petroleum minister. He has served as a provincial governor, an Islamic Revolution Guards Corps commander, and a deputy defense minister, according to biographies from ISNA and Mehr News Agency on 2 November. Legislator Iraj Nadimi said on 5 November that Mahsuli is the least likely to win approval, ISNA reported. Mashhad parliamentary representative Ali Asgari described Mahsuli as a "billionaire general" on 8 November, Mehr News Agency reported. How he gained his fortune is not the point, Asgari continued, it just compares unfavorably with the president's humble lifestyle. IRNA reported on 8 October that legislators from southwestern Iran sent a letter to the president in which they expressed their opposition to Mahsuli.

Getting Down To Work

There is some controversy over Mahmud Farshidi, the proposed education and training minister, as well, "Etemad" reported on 5 November, because some legislators see little difference between him and the previous nominee. He may succeed in winning a confidence vote, however, because the legislators want the executive branch to begin working in earnest.

Under these circumstances, it seems far from certain that Ahmadinejad will have a full cabinet on 10 November. Even if he does, stability in national affairs is far from certain due to ongoing personnel changes. From a domestic perspective, the appointment of provincial governors is a continuing process that will have an impact throughout the country. From an international perspective, the replacement of some 40 ambassadors will affect Iran's relations with the rest of the world. Finally, the government's recent replacement of the managing-directors of the state-owned Keshavarzi, Mellat, Melli, Saderat, Sepah, and Tejarat banks will affect the economy and the investment climate.

RFE/RL Iran Report

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