TEHRAN, 14 July (IPS) In its first major act, the new Iranian Parliament, or Majles, dominated by the ruling conservatives approved with a small majority Mr. Mohammad Hoseyn Sharifzadegan, 51, as minister for the newly created Social Welfare Ministry.
The approval, by 132 positive votes against 113 negatives and 14 abstentions from the 259 lawmakers present at the session was seen as a gesture from the new Majles to the government of the embattled and powerless Mohammad Khatami that it does not seek “systematic opposition” to the President.
Introducing his new minister, President Mohammad Khatami said Mr. Sharifzadegan is probably one of the best choices for such an important task and having run the Social Security Organisation for the last three years, he is highly experienced.
How comes that a government controlled by liberals and wanted to reduce the size of the government suddenly think to help the people and the needy ones?
“The outcome of voting today shows that this Majles is not looking for sensationalism, systematic opposition to the government and engaging in futile debates”, noted Mr. Qolamali Haddad-Adel, the new Speaker, who is also the first in this important position not being a clergyman.
Several lawmakers asked why Mr. Khatami wants a new ministry while his term as president is reaching its end in less than one year?
“How comes that a government controlled by liberals and wanted to reduce the size of the government suddenly think to help the people and the needy ones?” one lawmaker pointed out.
Another deputy said the creation of a new minister would solve no problem, especially in the field of social welfare. “If the officials implement the guidelines offered by our great and beloved leader, all problems and bottlenecks would be solved quickly”.
But some lawmakers in the reformist minority argued that the new ministry was needed to bring order to the massive social security system and dozens of semi-state charities.
The outcome of voting today shows that this Majles is not looking for sensationalism, systematic opposition to the government and engaging in futile debates
Analysts said conservatives are worried Sharif-Zadegan, who is a member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, the nation’s largest political formation headed by Dr. Mohammad Reza Khatami, the President’s younger brother, would gain control over several conservative-run charities and financial institutions, most of them controlled by Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i and have enjoyed great independence and never paid any tax to the government.
Journalists covering the session said debates were “very hot, to the point that many were certain that Mr. Sharifzadegan would be rejected or if wins, it would be by a very tiny majority”.
They also confirmed that most of the conservative lawmakers were objecting to the new minister’s position as a senior member of the IIPF.
“With this decision, the new lawmakers kept the promises they had made to the nation for keeping the conservative’s controlled Majles far from tensions. This is a positive move that would help them securing the presidency in the forthcoming presidential elections”, commented Mr. Jamshid Barzegar, an analyst of Iranian affairs based in Vienna, Austria.
Welcoming the decision, Mr. Khatami said, "I hope it serves as a beginning for good cooperation between the parliament and the government". ENDS IRAN NEW MINISTER 14704