TEHRAN (AFP) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began work on Thursday to set up his new government facing continuing protests over his re-election and divisions even within his own hardline support base.
Ahmadinejad was sworn in on Wednesday as Iran’s president for a second term after widespread protests following the June 12 vote sparked the worst crisis for the Islamic republic in its 30-year existence.
He has two weeks to announce his list of ministers to parliament, which will then vote on it.
Ahmadinejad came under fire from his own conservative camp last month when he appointed a controversial aide as his first deputy and later sacked the intelligence minister after a “quarrel” over him.
The nomination of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, a confidant and close relative of Ahmadinejad, was strongly opposed by hardliners who are still furious over a remark made by him last year that Iran is a friend of Israeli people.
The conservative wing of the regime was further irked when Ahmadinejad delayed terminating Rahim Mashaie’s appointment despite orders to fire him from the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The Mehr news agency said candidates to take over the first vice president’s post include government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham and Mojtaba Samereh Hashemi, who led Ahmadinejad’s election campaign.
It also said that Ahmadinejad is expected to appoint the Islamic republic’s first woman minister in his new cabinet.
The president may face new restrictions on his government’s activities.
Following the controversy over Rahim Mashaie, Iranian MPs have drawn up a bill limiting the autonomy of four vice presidents in order to better control the new government.
Under the bill designed to improve parliamentary supervision, the four posts which hold cabinet rank would become ministries.
The posts targeted are the vice presidents who head the Physical Education Organisation, Tourism and Cultural Heritage Organisation, Martyrs’ Foundation and the National Youth Organisation.
Iran’s parliament speaker Ali Larijani urged Ahmadinejad on Wednesday to form a government “within the framework of law and one which employs the elite.”
Ahmadinejad too has vowed to make changes in his new cabinet.
“The structure of government should change, the changes in the government will be considerable,” he said in a televised address on July 7.
“I am against police confrontation with people… We must respect people’s tastes especially the youth.”
The hardliners who criticised him over Rahim Mashaie praised him when he snubbed Western powers in his speech after the swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday.
Ahmadinejad lashed out in particular at Washington which has refused to congratulate him on his victory.
In his speech outlining his plans for the next four years, Ahmadinejad said he would continue to resist “oppressive powers,” and told Washington: “Iranians will neither value your scowling and bullying nor your smiles and greetings.”
Under US President Barack Obama, Washington has made overtures to Iran after three decades of severed ties, but Tehran has so far refused to respond.
“The US is not going to give up its plotting against Iran,” said Iran’s leading hardline newspaper Kayhan, which last month criticised Ahmadinejad over a number of controversial political decisions.
“But it has clearly understood it can’t stand against a powerful Islamic Iran which saw 85 percent turnout in the election. It has realised that adopting its old methods is useless,” said the paper, whose editor is appointed by Khamenei.
“But what is unfortunate is that some reformists are not learning from the lessons from the Satan who has deceived them,” the paper said referring to Ahmadinejad’s rivals who have refused to acknowledge his victory.