Fight Looms in Iran as Ahmadinejad Challenges Parliament on His Cabinet Picks

By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, August 21, 2009

TEHRAN, Aug. 20 -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took a confrontational tone with the parliament on Thursday over the selection of his cabinet, setting the stage for a fight with the nation's legislators even as his government continues to do battle with the opposition.

In an interview on state television, Ahmadinejad emphasized that he has a clear mandate after the June election, which official results showed he had won in a landslide but which the opposition alleges was stolen.

"The president is the result of the requests of the whole nation," he said in remarks aimed at the nation's 290-member parliament. "This is different from, for example, a city council election, where the people come and vote and there are a number of winners."

The majority faction in the parliament shares Ahmadinejad's broad convictions about confronting the West and using government programs to serve the poor, but many take issue with the way he governs. The parliament impeached several of his ministers during his first term.

Influential members of parliament hinted Thursday that at least seven of Ahmadinejad's 21 cabinet nominees might not be voted in.

"Four or five of the proposed ministers will certainly be turned down by parliament, and another two or three are relatively unknown," Mohammad-Reza Bahonar, deputy head of the parliament, told the semiofficial Iranian Labor News Agency on Thursday. "If we reach the conclusion that a proposed minister is inefficient and not suitable for the ministry, it's better if that minister gets a vote of no confidence from the beginning."

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani suggested that the nominees lacked experience and political heft. "A ministry is not a place for tryouts," he said.

In his interview, Ahmadinejad spoke of deep disappointment with the Intelligence Ministry and blamed it for the street unrest that followed the June 12 vote, in which hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets and encountered a brutal crackdown. "If the Ministry of the Intelligence had carried out its tasks properly, we would not have witnessed these events in the country," he said.

Ahmadinejad also defended picking three women for the cabinet, the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution that women have been selected for such posts. "Some may become unhappy when they hear about the nomination of three women," he said. "But who can claim that men are better than women? This mentality needs to be destroyed."

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