Majles Approves Ahmadinejad Ministerial Nominees after 'Stifled' Debate
04 Aug 2011 03:15
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Iran Daylight Time (IRDT), GMT+4:30
3:15 a.m., 13 Mordad/August 4 Our columnist Muhammad Sahimi compiled the following news items and commentary:
In its session on Wednesday, the Majles approved the four candidates nominated by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to head up the Ministry of Oil and three newly formed ministries. The nominee to lead the Oil Ministry, Brigadier General Rostam Ghasemi, commander of Khatam ol-Anbiya, the engineering arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, received 216 votes. Twenty-two deputies opposed him and seven abstained. Abdol Reza Sheikholeslami -- for the Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor, and Social Security -- and Mehdi Ghazanfari -- for the Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Commerce -- were approved with 204 and 218 votes, respectively. Mohammad Abbasi, the nominee to head the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, received the lowest number of votes, 165.
Ghasemi has been accused of involvement in Iran's nuclear and missile programs, and sanctioned by the United States. After his nomination for the post of oil minister was approved by an overwhelming majority of legislators, Lieutenant Brigadier General Ramazan Sharif, head of the Revolutionary Guards' public relations department, said that the vote was parliament's "firm response and meaningful response to the attacks by the Western mass media empire against Sepah [the Guards].... This vote shocked them once again." Sharif added that Ghasemi's departure from Khatam ol-Anbiya is "a great loss" for the Guards.
Before the vote on the ministerial candidates, Majles Speaker Ali Larijani spoke in defense of Ghasemi and the Revolutionary Guards, which is completely unprecedented in the context of such a vote. He said, "I was not going to speak, but I was forced to because Mr. Ghasemi's rights were hurt, and false statements were made against Sepah. The mass media have spoken about Ghasemi as someone who has not allowed the private sector to compete, but in my conversations with the private sector they said that Ghasemi has made it possible for them to compete [for government contracts], and instead of competing with them has supported them." Larijani added, "The impression that Sepah wants to gain political power is not right. I know that, due to Ghasemi's capabilities, the commander of Sepah [Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari] was opposed to his departure [for the Oil Ministry], but ultimately accepted it, and it is not true that they [Sepah] are taking over the political positions."
On the other hand, deputy Ali Motahari, a brother-in-law of Larijani's, opposed Ghasemi's nomination. He explained that his opposition was not personal or based on Ghasemi's track record, but owed to the principle that the participation of military men in the political structure of the Islamic Republic is inappropriate. He warned against the Revolutionary Guards' growing involvement in economic affairs and demanded that Ghasemi resign from the corps.
Motahari's statement aside, several reports indicated that the Majles was in what the press called "a heavy state," meaning one in which any meaningful debate is stifled. Apparently, the ruling elite, led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, did not want the vote on the four nominees to become another manifestation of the deep rifts between the various factions of the hardliners and conservatives. Deputy Majles Speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar sent a written note to the majority bloc asking them to vote positively on the four nominees. And Ahmadinejad, though he was given an hour to defend his nominees, spoke for only ten minutes. Deputy Ali Akbar Olia said that debating whether to vote in favor of or against the nominees is not "apostasy." He regretted that the "Majles has already made its decision." Ahmadinejad critic Ahmad Tavakoli protested the "heavy state" of the Majles and said that it was due to a "heavy environment" that Olia did not speak his mind.
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