TEHRAN (AFP) – Top Iranian lawmakers voiced strong opposition on Monday to some of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s proposed ministers, including women, on the second day of a debate on his controversial cabinet line-up.
Parliament is due to hold a vote of confidence on the 21-member cabinet on Wednesday but the hardline Ahmadinejad is battling to win support even from conservative MPs who complained about the inclusion of women and charged that many of his nominees lacked experience.
And on Monday, lawmakers openly objected to one of the three women Ahmadinejad has picked — which will mark the first time in the Islamic republic’s 30-year history there could be female cabinet ministers.
Education minister-designate Sousan Keshvaraz, dressed in a black chador, sought to win the support from a hostile parliament by showcasing her Islamic credentials and her plans for the post.
“I have grown up in a family which appreciates (Islamic) values and took part in religious events as well as in rallies against the shah’s government… and have been a member of the women’s Basij,” she said, referring to the volunteer Islamic militia.
She said if she became the education minister, she would encourage “ideological and social counselling” for students.
But parliament’s education commission chief Ali Abbaspour, a powerful conservative, strongly opposed her candidacy.
“If Keshavarz gets the vote, then we have no choice but to impeach her,” he warned. “She has only a year’s experience… and is talking of the same programmes outlined by previous ministers. The president has to nominate a strong minister.”
The other two women nominees, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi at the health ministry and Fatemeh Ajorlou at welfare and social security, also lack ministerial experience and have come under fire from MPs and hardline clerics.
Ahmadinejad’s nominations for interior minister — current defence minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar — and oil minister — current commerce minister Masoud Mirkazemi, have also met with stiff opposition.
It is crucial for Ahmadinejad, who is already at loggerheads with members of his hardline support base, to win over the 220-member conservative bloc in the 290-seat parliament if his cabinet is to win the confidence vote.
According to the Iranian constitution, the cabinet needs to be approved by more than 50 percent of lawmakers present for the vote.
But the president, whose hotly disputed re-election on June 12 set off the worst unrest in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution, faces a daunting task to win over MPs.
On Sunday, top conservative MP Ahmad Tavakoli, voicing the sentiment of many other lawmakers, said 16 of Ahmadinejad’s nominees “have no experience required for the ministries they have been nominated for.”
Iran remains mired in turmoil after Ahmadinejad’s victory triggered massive opposition street protests and unrest which left at least 30 people dead and shook the very foundations of the Islamic regime.
Ahmadinejad, battling a sustained opposition campaign as well as disputes with his own supporters, urged parliament to approve his new cabinet on Sunday and said his election victory was confirmation the people wanted his government to “continue on the same path.”
“Heated words in parliament as cabinet reviewed,” was the headline in the leading hardline newspaper Kayhan, often a harsh critic of Ahmadinejad.
“Top conservatives oppose cabinet,” thundered prominent conservative daily Jomhuri Eslami, while the Javan daily said Sunday’s events in parliament were “unprecedented.”
Most reformist newspapers largely downplayed Sunday’s debate, but the Sarmayeh newspaper said: “The generals in the majlis (parliament) against Ahmadinejad.”