Suggested cabinet to face challenges

August 24, 2009

Despite criticism for the delay in introducing the 21 members of his cabinet the president was able to submit his cabinet nominees at the last moment on Wednesday to Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani. Parliament, which is dominated by conservatives, will have an open session on August 23 for examining the suggested ministers and until August 30 for the vetting process.

Already there are signs that Mr. Ahmedinejad’s choices will face resistance from lawmakers. Mr. Larijani was one of the first to criticize the suggested nominees for their lack of experience and political weight: “Ministers should have enough experience and expertise, otherwise a huge amount of country’s stamina will waste. A ministry it not a place for tryouts.”
Mr. Ahmedinejad sought to project a more conciliatory tone on Thursday, saying he would not propose Cabinet nominees ”who would be in conflict with parliament.” However, one of the deputy speakers, Mohammad Reza Bahonar, predicted that four or five of the nominees would be rejected. He specified the health, energy and labor ministers not as “efficient” as the outgoing ministers.
Mr. Bahonar also made critical remark about the president breaking the norms for introducing the cabinet: “Usually the president introduced his ministers to the Parliament first, and thereafter the media were informed.”
Another conservative lawmaker, Ali Motahari, called the president’s proposed cabinet “weak,” saying it failed to “measure up to the nation’s capabilities.” Mr. Motahari has also pointed out that in selecting his cabinet Mr. Ahmedinejad has been looking for “obedient” ministers and has preferred loyalty over competence.
The president has submitted the names of three women in his government, a first in the 30-year history of the Islamic Republic. For the health ministry Ahmedinejad has nominated Dr. Marzieh Vahid Dastgerdi to run for the Health Ministry, Sousan Keshavarz as Education Minister, and Fatemeh Ajorlou for the Welfare and Social Security Ministry.
Ms Keshavarz has been criticized for the lack of experience. She was a deputy in the Education Ministry for just one year. Asadollah Abbasi, a member of the Parliament’s education committee, said that if Mr. Ahmedinejad nominates Keshavarz as education minister “it will be clear that he knows nothing about education.”
The selection of women in the cabinet was welcomed by MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi who said on Wednesday that women constitute 50 percent of the country’s population and 60 percent of the students in universities are females. He added that naming them in the new cabinet is a reformation.
Mr. Ahmedinejad has nominated Commerce Minister Massoud Mirkazemi as the new oil minister for the world’s fifth-largest crude exporter. Mr. Mirkazemi is an industrial engineer and has been criticized by analysts for his lack of experience in the oil sector.
Mustafa Alani, of the Persian Gulf Research Center, said “I don’t see how bringing somebody in who has not succeeded in their current ministry to help in terms of facing a potential crisis. He will be rejected by the leader and the parliament and Mr. Ahmedinejad will have to revise his nomination.”
During his first tenure, three choices of the president-elect’s oil minister were rejected by the parliament. Analysts have also argued that the choice of a new oil minister would further delay the ongoing and new negotiations for oil and gas contracts. The new minister would need time to familiarize himself before taking decisions whether to advance them.
In another move likely to arouse anger among his critics in Parliament, Mr. Ahmedinejad proposed to retain Industry and Mines Minister, Ali Akbar Mehrabian, despite his fraud conviction for stealing the design of an earthquake safe room. One more name that could be the focus of a parliament fight is the nominee for Intelligence Minister, Haidar Moslehi who could face resentment because his predecessor, Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei was fired over a verbal quarrel with the president in a cabinet meeting over the appointment of Esfiandiar Rahim-Meshaie as the first Vice President. Mr. Ahmedinejad criticized Mr. Ejehi on Thursday, saying “if he would have carried out his tasks properly, we would not have the problems on the street” after the election.
Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar was nominated as the new interior minister, in charge of police and overseeing the election process.
Although two of the suggested ministers have moved to new ministries, overall six nominees are from Mr. Ahmedinejad’s previous government. Among them is Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, who will retain his post.
The proposed defense minister in the tenth cabinet is Ahmad Vahidi. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, Chairman of the parliamentary National Security Commission, has welcomed the proposition. Mr. Vahidi was the deputy minister of defense in the previous cabinet and was one of celebrated commanders during the imposed Iraq-Iran war.
In a televised statement Thursday Mr. Ahmedinejad pointed out that his present cabinet is more competent than the previous one. The results of the cabinet vetting process and the confirmation of the new ministers will have to wait until August 30, the legal deadline for the parliament to vote on the cabinet.