PROPOSED CABINET SHOWS KHATAMI ON THE SAME ROAD AS HIS PREDECESSOR
By Safa Haeri with reports from Tehran and agencies
PARIS Aug. 14 (IPS) President Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami continued to be battered by all sides, including the reformists, for the ministers he proposed to the Majles on Sunday as his new ministers.
Out of the twenty, 16, including all "heavy ones", as well as those known generally as the "leader’s ministers" retained their jobs and among the four new faces -- as one had changed portfolio only --, the proposed Economy and Finance minister was the one who get most of the opposition.
Almost all MMs (Members of the Majles) questioned by the press on their views about the Hojjatolpresident’s proposed new cabinet were unanimous in expressing surprise, shock, dismay and anger and all forecast that between five to seven suggested ministers would not be approved.
"Speculation is rife on whether Khatami's newly appointed cabinet members would win approval by parliament notwithstanding the fact that it is controlled by deputies sympathetic to him. The hitch could be in failed expectations he would effect greater changes", said the official news agency IRNA that supports the President.
MMs both reformists and conservatives in the 290-seat House while expressing their "dissatisfaction" about the cabinet reshuffle, singled out several former ministers, including those of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Oil, Education and Islamic Guidance in the one hand and considered the first timers as "politically inexperienced."
"Reformist lawmakers maintain that Mr. Khatami, who was re-elected last June by another landslide vote was, under pressure to name a cabinet that would give all political factions equal representation", IRNA said.
"We have earlier told the president that Majles may not give the vote of confidence to certain ministers he had in mind, but he nonetheless appointed them due to pressure", Mr. Ali Na’imipoor, the Head of the reformist fraction was quoted as saying by the independent Iranian Student News Agency ISNA.
"We expected to see more new faces in the cabinet and hoped certain incumbent ministers would be replaced with new ones", he said.
Another reformist deputy, Ali-Mohammad Namazi, told the agency: "The parliamentarians expected a major change and inclusion of more experienced people."
"Some of the (appointed) ministers do not even have a professional record in the ministries since after the (1979 Islamic) Revolution. How can we expect them to meet the people's needs?" he asked.
The new appointees, namely Tahmasb Mazaheri, Masoud Pezeshkian, Ahmad Khorram, Safdar Hoseini and Ali Soufi are to go respectively to Finance and Economy, Health, Roads and Transportation, Labour and Social Affairs and Cooperatives while the Cooperatives Minister Morteza Haji is to move to the Eeducation.
"Why should a road and construction engineer be named as the head of an important ministry like Economy and Finance at a time that our economy needs highly educated and experienced men or an agriculture expert deal with sensitive problems as labour and social affairs or putting an engineer on physics as Cco-operative Minister? observed Mr. Mohammad Heydari of the monthly "Gozaresh"
The 47 years-old Mr. Tahmasb Mazaheri, considered for the Economy Minister, is a former Khatami economic advisor, educated in Scotland and served as Deputy Prime Minister with Mr. Mir Hoseyn Mousavi, Iran’s War time Prime Minister.
The conservative daily "Abrar" quoted reformist MM Nasser Qavami as saying only eight ministers would most probably receive the confidence vote.
"I think that the proposed cabinet is not capable," he said, adding, "It seems certain ministers imagine themselves to have a perpetual claim to certain ministries."
Another criticism raised by lawmakers is that Khatami has retained ministers in his current cabinet despite their having been involved in various political and managerial irregularities, as Oil, Foreign Affairs, Defence, Intelligence, Interior and Islamic Guidance ministers have all kept their offices.
"Khatami could have brought in new faces to satisfy the popular demand for more overt moves toward reform. But Such changes and, more importantly, the will to stand behind them needs determination that Khatami does not have", commented Mr. Mohammad Javad Mozzafar, a reformist political analyst was quoted by IRNA as saying.
But Mr. Mohammad Tarraqi of the radical Islamic Coalition League thinks Mr. Khatami has deliberately named most of the controversial ministers in order to get rid of them via the Majles.
"At least one third of the proposed ministers are not in the places they should be", he told IRNA, noting that the new cabinet, as named by Mr. Khatami, would not be able to meet neither of the people’s demand or big economic and political challenges looming over the nation.
"I believe that if they succeeded in obtaining vote of confidence from Majles, they could not conduct the responsibility entrusted on them properly so that we will not get positive result at the end of the four-year term", said Hojjatoleslam Rasool Montajabnia, a spokesman for the Majma’e Rowhanioun Mobarez (MRM), or the Militant Clergymen’s Association, an offshoot of the larger Combatant Clergymen’s Association.
"But, now, for whatever reason, the president has placed them in the new list, I expect the members of Majles to exercise maximum attention and not to give vote of confidence to at least six candidates", he added, citing the Oil, Defence and Foreign Ministers amongst those who would fail to get approval.
"We are aware of the pressures on Khatami, but parliament is still determined to stick to its reforms programme and secure the people's demands for change", Mrs Elahe Koula’i, a reformist MM told Reuters.
Parliament's energy committee was also against the reappointment of Oil Minister Bizhan Namdar-Zanganeh, who has been accused of corruption by reformers and conservatives alike.
"The committee does not approve of (Zanganeh) and we have informed the president of this," MM Mohammad Rashidian was quoted byl IRNA as saying.
"It's good that (Khatami) didn't make more changes, because we believe it would have made the cabinet even weaker," MM Hossein Mar’ashi of the centrist Servants of Reconstruction told Reuters.
"Relations had more of a role in some of the appointments than meritocracy", said Hoseinali Qasemzadeh, a conservative deputy, referring to the proposed Economy Minister.
Ten members of the proposed cabinet are from the pro-Khatami Islamic Iran Participation Party (IIPP). They are Morteza Haji, Mas’ood Pezeshkian, Tahmasb Mazaheri, Ahmad Mo’tamedi, Mahmood Hojjati, Safdar Hosseini, Ali Soufi, Mostafa Mo’in, Habibollah Bitaraf and Ahmad Khorram.
Executives of Construction Party (ECP) hold three seats in the cabinet with Mr. Es’haq Jahangiri, Ali Abdolalizadeh and Bizhan Namdar-Zangeneh and the rest, except for the Interior Minister who is affiliated to the MRM that support the President, Kamal Kharrazi,Ali Shamkhani, Hojjatoleslam Ali Younesi are nominated by the leader and the rest of the nominees are independent, with Mohammad Shariatmadari and Hojjatoleslam Esma’il Shoushtari believed to follow IIPP policies.
Newspapers close to both of Iran's political factions also criticised the president's cabinet list.
"A vote of confidence cannot be foreseen," said the reformist newspaper, "Hayat No" (New Life).
"The (proposed) cabinet list has shocked MMs," ran the headline in the conservative "Resalat" newspaper.
"The changes were insufficient," the reformist daily "Mellat" (People) quoted MM Jamileh Kadivar, the wife of former Guidance Minister Ata’ollah Mohajerani, as saying. "Popular demand is for more (change) than this."
It is heard that President Mohammad Khatami did not have a personal talk with the proposed nominees and his brother Ali Khatami has discussed with the would-be minister on his behalf.
"The fact that Khatami did not have a personal meeting with the candidates weakens the position of ministers in the cabinet and with such behaviour, powerful candidates will not accept to serve as a minister", observed the English language "Tehran Times".
Both Mr. Heydari the journalist and Mr. Qasem Sho’leh Sa’di, a former deputy from Shiraz and jurist said that the power structure of the present Iranian system does not allow for radical changes.
"Importing strong minded, experienced, well-educated and experienced men into the cabinet would immediately faces sensitivities from various factions and personalities, therefore, one has to make the minimum possible of changes", Mr. Sho’leh Sa’di said, referring to the reshuffled cabinet.
Like Professor Fereydoon Khavand, a Paris-based economist, the former lawmaker also believes that the Parliament is "far ahead" of the President when coming to implement the reforms promised by Mr. Khatami.
However, Mr. Khavand has the impression that "more and more", Mr. Khatami look to best ways to compromise with Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i in order to avoid complications from hard line conservatives.
Expecting divisions, if not outright schism among the reformists and expressing "serious concern" over the future of the President, Mr. Sho’leh Sa’di joined the radical daily "Keyhan" which, in a recent commentary, had raised the possibility of seeing Mr. Khatami ending his term as did his predecessor, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani.
"When elected for the first time, Mr. Hashemi (Rafsanjani) was at the zenith of his popularity. Eight years after, he was in the bottom of trash bin, not even able to get a seat at the Majles, preferring resigning that suffer more humiliation. Now, it seems that Mr. Khatami is going exactly the same road, unfortunately", he commented for the Persian service of Radio France Internationale. ENDS KHATAMI NEW CABINET 14801