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Iran: A Cabinet Position Not Enough For Some

President-elect Ahmadinejad folowing his election victory Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will officially confirm Mahmud Ahmadinejad as president on 3 August, IRNA reported on 17 July, and Ahmadinejad will be sworn in on 6 August. The new president will have 15 days to introduce his proposed cabinet members to the parliament for approval, according to parliamentarian Hamid Reza Haji-Babai.

Ahmadinejad's future cabinet continues to be a topic of discussion in the Tehran press (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 13 July 2005). Now, the discussion is not so much about the actual choices as it is about the selection process. One aspect of this process focuses on the permissibility of a cabinet member continuing to serve on a municipal council. Another aspect of the process focuses on intra-factional differences among the hard-liners who backed Ahmadinejad's presidential bid.

Splits Among The Victors

"Mardom Salari" reported on 21 July that the majority faction in the legislature objects to the team selecting the cabinet, and it put this argument in the context of disagreements between members of the Islamic Iran Developers Coalition in the legislature and in the Tehran municipal council. Developers in the legislature mostly backed the candidacies of Ali Larijani and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf in the first round of the presidential election. The Developers in the municipal council, however, backed Ahmadinejad consistently.

A reference to these splits appeared in the 7 July "Farhang-i Ashti," which reported that the 15 members of the municipal council plan to form an independent group. The same day, "Mardom Salari" reported that the Developers do not want to lose control of the municipal council. At the same time, they believe they should have a role in Ahmadinejad's administration.

The 15 hard-line Developers also fear that if they leave the council they will be replaced by reformists. This is because, according to the regulations, they would be replaced by the council-election runners-up. No. 16 in the council race was a leading reformist, Mustafa Tajzadeh. Tajzadeh, as well as national-religious activist Gholam Abbas Tavasoli, are anticipating the hard-liners' resignations, "Farhang-i Ashti" reported on 3 July.

Council member and Developer Mehdi Chamran, therefore, is putting off the possibility of a position as cabinet member or government spokesman, while the council is claiming that the law does not prevent individuals from serving in the government and the council.

On the possibility of serving in two positions, Chamran said, "The only problem is in practice, in terms of time, and members are concerned by that," "Etemad" reported on 6 July. "The workload has taken up so much time that members have little time left for other matters." Another council member, Amir-Reza Vaezi-Ashtiani, said the legislature and the Guardians Council are to weigh in on the issue.

Government officials' comments did not clarify the situation. Interior Ministry spokesman Jahanbakhsh Khanjani said Article 141 of the constitution and Article 28 of the law on municipal councils forbid vice presidents, cabinet ministers, or presidential advisers from being members of municipal councils, "Etemad" reported on 6 July. Judiciary spokesman Jamal Karimi-Rad cited a law ratified in 1994-96, "indicating that city council members are not considered government employees, and stating that someone in the city council can also be in the cabinet."

Old School Vs. New School

"Farhang-i Ashti" on 21 July put the dispute in terms of the rivalry between the young right wing and the traditionalist right wing. An editorial in the 19 July issue of the same newspaper said the traditional right, which has its roots in the Qom seminary and in the country's "economic centers" (presumably, the bazaar), fears that it is being slowly eliminated.

Reflecting the old right is Islamic Coalition Party central council member Habibullah Asgaroladi-Mosalman, who is deputy leader of the Coordination Council of Islamic Revolution Forces that backed Ali Larijani's presidential bid. He advised the president-elect to "draw a line of moderation between opting for the youth and valuing those with experience," "Shoma" reported on 16 July. "The next government's ministers, while they should be young, specialists, and competent, they must at the same time have had some on the job experience, even if it is brief."

Everybody Has An Opinion

These are not the only aspects of the cabinet-selection process that interest Iranian commentators.

Mohammad Reza Khatami, secretary-general of the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Party, called for a politically united cabinet that would take full responsibility for its actions, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 23 July.

Legislator Fatemeh Ajarlu said the president-elect wants to use new faces, "Farhang-i Ashti" reported on 21 July. "Aftab-i Yazd" advised Ahmadinejad on 21 July to ignore calls for a bipartisan cabinet and to instead choose officials who can work together. This would eliminate ministers attributing their shortcomings to politics or rivalries.

"Kayhan" on 19 July cited interviews with various legislators and commentators who in the midst of advising Ahmadinejad on selecting his cabinet, called for reforms in the Foreign Ministry, Interior Ministry, Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance, and Ministry of Intelligence and Security.

Perhaps the final word should go to Basij commander Mohammad Hejazi, whose institution allegedly played such an important role in Ahmadinejad's victory. Hejazi said at a conference of the Basij units at state organizations and trade guilds, "The person who has been elected by the people as the next president is a Basiji personality, and it is expected that he is going to appoint aides and managers who espouse the Basiji mode of thought as well," "Iran" reported on 7 July. Hejazi predicted that Basij members in government organizations will have an important role in the future.