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Iran: Will The New President Have A Big Tent?

How many of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's (pictured) supporters will be in the new Iranian government? President-elect Mahmud Ahmadinejad will be sworn in on 4 August, and a formal inauguration at the legislature will take place one day earlier. In the meantime, Ahmadinejad must select a cabinet. Ahmadinejad says ideology and politics will not determine his choices and he has met with individuals from the hard-line and reform factions. His choices are a sign of what one can expect from his presidency.


"It is a government of 70 million," Ahmadinejad said during a 26 June press conference, state television reported. "I mean, it is a cabinet that makes the entire Iranian nation feel that their willpower finds manifestation there. They feel that their demands are being studied." Ahmadinejad indicated that competence rather than ideology would be the deciding factor in his choices, saying, "We will use all talents and take advantage of all opportunities and use all worthy individuals."
Ahmadinejad's cabinet choices will say a great deal about what Iranians and the rest of the world can expect from his presidency.

As if to emphasize his desire for inclusiveness, Ahmadinejad has met with members of incumbent President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami's cabinet, and he has sought reformist legislators' opinions. The president-elect met on 30 June with Islamic Culture and Guidance Minister Ahmad Masjid-Jamei, Petroleum Minister Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh, Defense and Armed Forces Logistics Minister Ali Shamkhani, Intelligence and Security Minister Hojatoleslam Ali Yunesi, and Roads and Transport Minister Mohammad Rahmati. They discussed their respective ministries and offered advice on possible successors.

Ahmadinejad met with Agriculture Jihad Minister Mahmud Hojjati, Cooperatives Minister Ali Sufi, and Management and Planning Organization chief Hamid Baradaran a week later. The president-elect also met with Supreme National Security Council secretary Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani.

Parliamentary speaker Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel asked the reformists to select several legislators to reflect their views. On 4 July, Boin-Zahra's Qodratullah Alikhani, Tabriz's Ismail Jabarzadeh, Bojnurd's Ismail Gerami-Moqaddam, and Ardakan's Mohammad Reza Tabesh were chosen to consult with Ahmadinejad on his cabinet choices and possible methods for interfactional cooperation. Later in the day, however, Gerami-Moqaddam said the reformists will not have a role in creating the cabinet, nor will they be members of it.

Mohammad Sadai, a member of the pro-reform Islamic Iran Participation Front, dismissed the calls for inclusivity, saying, "a bipartisan cabinet sounds more like a slogan than a reality," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 4 July. The conditions under which Ahmadinejad was elected, Sadai said, "effectively make that impossible."


Not surprisingly, Ahmadinejad is looking closer to his ideological home for his ministers. Shokrollah Atarzadeh, a hard-line legislator from Bushehr, said on 26 June that Ahmadinejad will look to the parliamentarians who backed him. The legislature's hard-line faction formed a five-member committee -- Reza Abdullahi, Mohammad Reza Bahonar, Hussein Fadai, Mohsen Kuhkan, and Gholamreza Mesbahi-Moqaddam -- to advise Ahmadinejad on cabinet choices.

Ali Larijani's name has come up often in the discussion about Ahmadinejad's cabinet. Larijani, who lost in the first round of the presidential election, is the supreme leader's representative to the Supreme National Security Council and, until resigning so he could run for president, headed the official Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. Parliamentarian Shokrollah Atarzadeh said on 26 June that Ahmadinejad will include Larijani in his cabinet, and Ahmadinejad met with Larijani on 1 July. On 6 July, the hard-line "Kayhan" newspaper and the Iranian Labor News Agency mentioned Larijani as the next Islamic culture and guidance minister, a position he held in the 1990s. "Kayhan" added that Larijani might succeed Hojatoleslam Hassan Rohani as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council and be the lead person in nuclear negotiations with Europe.

Tehran municipal council chief Mehdi Chamran is another possible cabinet member or even the choice for first vice president, according to some observers. Chamran is a leader in the Islamic Iran Developers Coalition (Etelaf-i Abadgaran-i Iran-i Islami), which backed Ahmadinejad's presidential bid.

Among the other names that are being considered are former Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance Tahmasb Mazaheri, Tehran parliamentary representative Elias Naderan, and Tehran parliamentary representative Ahmad Tavakoli, "Farhang-i Ashti" reported on 27 June. Tavakoli, however, said on 1 July that he is reluctant to be in the cabinet and would rather stay in the legislature, Fars News Agency reported.


During a 3 July visit to the holy city of Qom, Ahmadinejad met with a number of senior clerics, including Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi-Mesbah-Yazdi, a prominent hard-line cleric associated with the Haqqani seminary. Mesbah-Yazdi had endorsed Ahmadinejad's candidacy, "Farhang-i Ashti" reported on 20 June. Subsequently, there was speculation that Mesbah-Yazdi would become minister of Islamic culture and guidance.

Some of the country's most hard-line figures are alumni of the Haqqani seminary (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 30 April 2001). Furthermore, alumni have gone on to leading positions in intelligence and security institutions. Ayatollah Mohieddin Haeri-Shirazi, the supreme leader's representative in Fars Province, said some of the president-elect's supporters were his students at the Haqqani seminary, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 30 June.

A list of possible cabinet members provided by the hard-line Daricheh website (; the site did not provide first names) on 2 July included at least two Haqqani alumni as prospective intelligence and security ministers. They are Special Court for the Clergy official Purmohammadi (first name not available) or Documents Center chief Hojatoleslam Ruhollah Husseinian, who has served in the Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the Special Court for the Clergy.

The Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA) on 6 July lists judiciary official Ebrahim Raisi as a possible intelligence and security minister, and press court judge Said Mortazavi as the justice minister.

The hard-line credentials of other individuals mentioned by the Daricheh website are noteworthy. Possible defense ministers are Basij commander Mohammad Hejazi, Islamic Revolution Guards Corps deputy commander Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr, Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani, former national police chief Hedayat Lotfian, or former presidential candidate Mohsen Rezai. All of these individuals have a background in the Guards Corps. Possible interior ministers are former presidential candidate Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Tehran parliamentary representative Mohammad Reza Bahonar, or Guardians Council election official Mohammad Jahromi.

According to Daricheh and ILNA on 6 July, a possible Petroleum Minister is Deputy Oil Minister for International Affairs Mohammad Hadi Nejad-Husseinian. Tehran parliamentary representative Emad Afruq is mentioned by both as a possible Islamic culture and guidance minister.

Tehran parliamentary representative Manuchehr Mottaki is described as the next foreign minister by ILNA. Daricheh indicates there are more choices, mentioning judiciary adviser and former diplomat Javad Larijani, current Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, and former Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Assefi.

The ministers Ahmadinejad selects must win a vote of confidence from the parliament before they can begin work (constitutional articles 133-142 deal with the president and his cabinet). Discussion of the composition of Ahmadinejad's cabinet, at this point, may seem excessively speculative and therefore irrelevant. However, the individuals responsible for domestic issues will have a serious influence over human rights, press freedom, and social welfare. And ministers dealing with petroleum and foreign affairs will affect Iran's interaction with the international community. Ahmadinejad's cabinet choices will say a great deal about what Iranians and the rest of the world can expect from his presidency.

For comlplete information on the Iranian presidential election see our website "Iran Votes 2005"