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Iran's Parliament To Debate Ahmadinejad's Proposed Cabinet

  • Golnaz Esfandiari

Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad appeals to parliament to approve his cabinet choices. Legislators suggest four out of the 21 names could be rejected.

Iran's President Mahmud Ahmadinejad appeals to parliament to approve his cabinet choices. Legislators suggest four out of the 21 names could be rejected.

Iran's parliament has begun a three-day session to debate and vote on President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's proposed new cabinet.

Ahmadinejad, in presenting his 21 nominations, said the new government was committed to preserving justice and national dignity, and would be decisive in confronting any pressure from the West.

Ahmadinejad, whose reelection has been disputed by key reformist politicians and a significant number of Iranians, has called on parliament to approve his cabinet.

"The cabinet is a coherent, specialized, and efficient cabinet," he said. "I thank you for your patience: you listened to my comments for about an hour. The cabinet is the parliament, the parliament is the cabinet. We both have to be successful."

The Iranian president introduced his new cabinet as "a team" of scholars who are ready to work together and solve the problems of the Iranian people.

Nominations Criticized

But Ahmadinejad faces a difficult task in getting parliament's approval, as a majority of the nominees have been criticized for not having relevant expertise and experience.

"The main trait of the proposed ministers is the degree of their loyalty to Ahmadinejad," former legislator Ghassem Sholeh Saadi tells RFE/RL, saying their nominations are "not based very much on their expertise, competence, and experience in political and managerial work."

Legislator Hossein Naqavi has told the semi official Mehr news agency that four of the nominees, including the ministers for education, welfare, and social security, will not be confirmed due to what he described as "their lack of experience and efficiency."

Another legislator, Amir Taherkhani, has said that the nominee for the post of industries and mines minister will also be questioned by parliament.

Taherkhani says the nominee has reportedly been found guilty of fraud for registering someone else's invention in his own name.

Ahmadinejad's nominee for the key post of oil minister, Massud Mirkazemi, has come under fire for not having the necessary skills and experience for the job. Mirkazemi is currently the commerce minister.

Lawmaker Ali Motahari criticized Mirkazemi as inadequate and said he would be trying to learn the necessary skills for his new post on the job.

Ahmadinejad defended Mirkazemi by calling him a "brave combatant" who would be capable of managing the oil sector, which produces about 80 percent of Iran's foreign revenue.

Liberals, Conservatives Against Women Named

The proposed cabinet includes 14 new ministers, including three women for the posts of education, health, and social welfare. Some hard-line clerics have already criticized the choices and said that women should not be given top managerial posts.

The nomination of the three women, a first in the Islamic republic, has also been criticized by women's rights activists, who say the nominated women have a traditional way of thinking that could lead to more limitations imposed on women.

Reformist lawmaker Ali Asghar Yusefnejad said that the parliament will decide on the three woman based on their merits.

Yusefnejad has questioned how Ahmadinejad and his cabinet would revive Iran's economy, which suffers from double-digit rates of unemployment and inflation. He said the president has offered only "generalities and slogans."

Facing Many Hurdles

Ahmadinejad has been criticized both by reformists and conservatives for economic mismanagement.

Despite the skepticism during the debate on August 30, some members of the conservative-dominated parliament defended Ahmadinejad's proposed new cabinet members.

Conservative Hossein Garusi said that the nominees are highly educated and in coordination with the president.

Legislator Javad Karimi from Mashhad also said that for the first time since the 1979 revolution about 50 percent of the proposed cabinet members have doctorate degrees, which he described as "an honor" for Iran.

The vote of confidence comes as the Islamic establishment continues to face its worst political crisis since 1979, which was triggered by Ahmadinejad's disputed reelection that led to massive street protests and a heavy crackdown on the opposition.

The parliament debate over the new cabinet could lead to another setback for the Iranian president, who has caused fresh controversy by appearing at the parliament session with his bodyguards.
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