Wednesday, October 4, 2023

President Rouhani under Pressure on Cabinet Line-Up

As Iranian President Rouhani is preparing to announce his next cabinet, speculations are increasingly raised on his cabinet’s line-up by main political figures from the two main political camps in Iran.

President Rouhani who was reelected in the presidential election in May is expected to announce his new cabinet in the next couple of weeks. With the grassroots support of 24 million of Iranians, he is now set to form a new cabinet. Over the past two months, a large number of speculations have been raised about the line-up of his cabinet.

But at the same time, Rouhani has come under pressure by both camps to include their proposed candidates in his cabinet. As the moderate politicians call for an efficient cabinet, the radicals are seeking to claim more shares in the cabinet at the cost of national interests. They have no hesitation in exerting more pressure on Rouhani to achieve their goals.


16 Million Votes as Yardstick

In the latest presidential election in May, the Conservative camp managed to garner 16 million votes. Now, they rely on these votes to claim their shares in the new cabinet. This comes as the moderate conservatives advise President Rouhani to set up a cabinet spanning both camps. They also call on him to continue to adopt his moderate political manner in the next government.

But the radicals of the Conservative camp have had no hesitation in using any tactics to tarnish the image of President Rouhani since May 19. They want to open their way into the next cabinet and maintain that Rouhani is not allowed to close his eyes on the 16 million voters who cast their ballots to his main rival, Ebrahim Raisi, during the presidential election in May. They have warned that President Rouhani’s next government would be hampered if their demands are not met. The warnings seem far from a public benevolence.

Former Vice-President under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Seyyed Mohammad Reza Mir-Tajeddini, is among the radical conservatives who maintain that the 16 million votes reveal that a large fraction of the nation is not satisfied with the performance of Rouhani’s government.

In an interview with the Khabar Online news website, he said Rouhani is now the president of all Iranians. So, he should form a cabinet spanning all people including those who did not vote for him. In other words, he should not form the cabinet based on factional interests.

Hamid Reza Taraqqi, a member of the conservative Islamic Coalition Party, has expressed doubt about the inclusive nature of Rouhani’s next government and said the condition of the Conservative camp is not going to get better in the next cabinet.


We Supported, Now We Claim our Shares

The reformists also have their own demand. The camp put its heavy weight behind Rouhani during the last two presidential elections. Now, they view themselves as the main winners of the recent elections. Some of the main figures of this camp maintain that President Rouhani should form a relatively reformist cabinet without any hesitation. The radicals of this camp say it is not a matter of claiming shares, but a reasonable expectation.

“The voters who cast their ballot for Rouhani expect him to fulfil his pledges and appoint more reformist figures to his cabinet,” he said.

Some other figures like senior academic Sadeq Zibakalam maintain that Rouhani should form his cabinet regardless of partisan interests. This comes as there are other reformists who are dissatisfied with Rouhani for not meeting their demands by appointing more reformist figures to key posts in his government.

Now these reformists are exerting pressure on Rouhani to meet their demands. Some of them made harsh criticisms of Rouhani four years ago for appointing figures like the conservative politician Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli to the key post of Interior Minister. Today, they say the president should appoint reformist governors in all provinces.

Political figures like Iranian Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Mahmoud Vaezi, believe that the reformists are not claiming shares in the new cabinet for their support during presidential campaign.

Vice-President Masoumeh Ebtekar argues this is the conservatives who are claiming shares in the cabinet rather than reformists. On the other hand, some leading reformist figures like senior lawmaker Mohammad Reza Aref say having most key posts in the cabinet is the natural right of the reformists because they played a key role in Rouhani’s reelection providing him with a huge social investment.

Mahmoud Mirlohi, another reformist activist, who echoes the same idea, is amazed to see that the conservatives who did their best not to allow Rouhani to gain power now expect him to provide them with posts in his cabinet.


Final Decision for Moderate Cabinet

Time is running out for Rouhani. As the leader of the new cabinet, he has not yet commented on the possible line-up of his cabinet. He has just vowed to put together a young cabinet. He is now fully aware that the pressure from the two camps are set to increase day by day. As the president, he has no way but to make a major decision under huge pressures. It seems he has to brace himself for more sabotage by the radicals of both sides.

Four years ago, he adopted a moderate manner in appointing his ministers. It seems he is going to continue the manner in forming the new cabinet. President Rouhani has proved that he makes his own decision regardless of outside pressures.

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