NewsSpecial WireIran’s parliament confirms key hard-line ministers

Iran’s parliament confirms key hard-line ministers

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Iran Focus: Tehran, Aug. 24 – Iran’s hard-line-dominated parliament gave thumbs up to 17 ultra-Islamists nominated by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for ministerial posts, but rejected his choices for the four ministries of oil, welfare, education, and cooperatives. Iran Focus

Tehran, Aug. 24 – Iran’s hard-line-dominated parliament gave thumbs up to 17 ultra-Islamists nominated by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for ministerial posts, but rejected his choices for the four ministries of oil, welfare, education, and cooperatives.

Legislators, the majority of whom are from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s ultra-conservative faction, confirmed the key hard-line figures handpicked to run the ministries of intelligence, interior, defence, foreign affairs, and Islamic guidance and culture.

The most prominent rejection was that of Ali Saeedlou, earmarked by the hard-line president as the next oil minister. But Saeedlou, who was Ahmadinejad’s financial deputy as mayor of Tehran, got off to a rocky start when lawmakers noted that he had no experience in the oil bureaucracy, lacked academic qualification, and had no plans to deal with the serious problems facing the country’s vital oil industry.

Ahmadinejad sought to allay lawmakers’ concerns over his oil minister-designate by arguing that as an outsider, Saeedlou would be well-placed to fight the “oil mafia” that he has blamed for embezzling billions of dollars from Iran’s oil revenues. But the assertion did little to help his long-time associate, when Saeedlou’s opponents revealed that he, as the nephew of one of the top ultra-conservative figures who is at the top of the “oil mafia”, is deeply involved in illicit oil deals.

The final debate in the Majlis over Saeedlou turned acrimonious on Wednesday. When one of the deputies, Ahmad Nategh Nouri, was speaking at the podium in Saeedlou’s favour, someone handed him a note. Nategh Nouri read the note and, as his face turned red with anger, shouted, “Someone has written, ‘how much bribe did you receive for defending Saeedlou?’. This is disgusting”.

In the end, Saeedlou received 101 votes for and 133 votes against from the 284 deputies present. The highest vote was given to Urban Planning Minister Mohammad Saeedi-Kia (222 votes), followed by Communications Minister Mohammad Soleimani and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, each with 220 votes. The lowest vote of confirmation was garnered by Science Minister Mohammad Mehdi Zahedi (144 votes).

According to the rules, President Ahmadinejad has three months to propose new nominees for the vacant ministries.

The rejection of four cabinet nominees pointed to rifts developing within the ranks of the ultra-conservatives, who have consolidated their hold on all the branches of power in Iran in the last three years. Two of the deputies, Emad Afrough and Elias Naderan, who were the most outspoken critics of the ministers, are among the most prominent hard-liners in the Majlis and close allies of Ahmadinejad.

The handful of Khatami allies in the Majlis and deputies close to Hashemi Rafsanjani were passive throughout the confirmation process and rarely spoke against any of the nominees. Some of the most hard-line members of Ahmadinejad’s team, such as the new secret police chief Gholam-Hossein Ezhei and Defence Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, went through the confirmation without a single deputy speaking against their nomination.

On the contrary, fellow hard-liners led some of the strongest attacks on the new ministers. Emad Afrough lashed out at Interior Minister Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi, who was deputy intelligence minister in the1990s.

“You must realize that when someone comes from such a ministry … our reaction is to shudder with fear”, Afrough said, alluding to the murder of dozens of intellectuals and dissidents by Intelligence Ministry agents in the 1990s.

In the end, Pour-Mohammadi sailed through the confirmation process with little difficulty.

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