As expected, Hassan Rouhani did not have any difficulties for getting votes of confidence for his proposed ministers, and from his proposed candidates, only Habibollah Bitaraf failed in winning over the majority of MPs for joining the 12th cabinet. Now despite dissatisfactions of some supporters of Rouhani over his not keeping promises in introducing ministers from women and religious minorities, the next cabinet will officially start to work.
» Least votes for the youngest
Analysis of results of MPs votes for proposed ministers reveals some of its hidden meaning. For example, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi entered the cabinet with a fragile majority, despite Rouhani’s strong support for him. Of 279 votes, he could get only 152. 120 MPs disagreed with his ministry, with 7 abstentions. It seems that adverse votes for Jahromi were mostly from Omid [Hope] Fraction who found unacceptable his previous presence in Intelligence Ministry during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Some political and civil activists say that Jahromi was their interrogator during repressions after 2009 presidential election, and was present in operations for searching their houses. Jahromi denies such claims, saying he was in charge of infrastructure for tapping department in Intelligence Ministry. Objections to appointing Jahromi to Ministry of Telecommunications and Technology picked up in past couple of weeks, and users of social networks launched an internet campaign to encourage MPs to disagree with him. Even though the campaign couldn’t manage to stop Jahromi from getting this position, it was apparently effective in decreasing his votes and caused this youngest proposed minister to enter the cabinet with least favorable votes.
» Three theories for vote of no confidence for Bitaraf
Today, it should be a tough, sad day for Habibollah Bitaraf. He was the only one from among proposed ministers by Rouhani who was rejected by MPs and should go home, instead of cabinet meetings. Only 133 MPs voted for him, while 132 voted against him, with 18 abstentions.
To become a minister, Bitaraf needed at least 144 votes. There are some conspicuous points about Bitaraf vote of no confidence. First of all, Rouhani defended Bitaraf very cautiously, creating the conception that he himself didn’t insist on his becoming minister. The second reason goes back to Bitaraf’s role in building dams and dispute over transferring water in Khuzestan and western parts of the country, making those regions’ MPs pessimistic about his presence in Energy Ministry again. Nevertheless, there is another theory that adverse votes for Bitaraf were due to his closeness to the reformists.
» Symbolic meaning of votes to defense minister
The most MPs’ votes were for Amir Hatami, the proposed minister of Defense and Support for Armed Forces. He could gain 261 votes from lawmakers. There were only 10 adverse votes, with 13 abstentions – those who were not willing to take any positive or negative stance towards this brigadier-general from the army.
In reviewing his competence, nobody talked in disagreement with him, and now for the first time, somebody from the army becomes defense minister in the Iranian Republic. The reason for MPs overwhelming votes for defense minister is evident, conveying this symbolic message that lawmakers, despite their political differences, are unanimous in their support for military forces.
» Choices disappointing reformists
It was not just Jahromi’s votes that made reformist supporters of Rouhani unhappy. Two other proposed ministers – Ali Rabiee and Abdul-Reza Rahmani Fazli – also got favorable votes from MPs, and their re-appointments are not good news for the reformists.
Rabiee, for example, is accused of creating obstacles for reviving journalists’ union, and even when journalists agreed to establish a replacement Association for Tehran province, the labor minister still created problems for them.
To reformists, Rahmani Fazli was one of Rouhani’s most disappointing choices. He is close to Larijani, and his presence in the 11th cabinet was considered as a ransom paid to Larijani in exchange for the cooperation of the government and the parliament. It was expected that now that the government and the parliament are more in the same line with each other, Rouhani would replace Rahmani Fazli with a new figure. But it seems that he still has strong political considerations in appointing people to his cabinet. 250 votes of confidence that Rahmani Fazli obtained prove to what extent fundamentalists in the parliament are willing to have him in interior ministry.
» Weight of moderate fundamentalists
Two strategic ministers of Rouhani cabinet – Mohammad Javad Zarif and Bizhan Zanganeh – go to the 12th cabinet with considerable votes of confidence. Zarif could gain 230 votes from MPs, and Zanganeh obtained 236 votes. They gain considerable votes of confidence, whereas these two ministers faced severe blows from the fundamentalists in past 4 years.
Zarif was rebuked for the nuclear deal and his efforts to de-escalate tensions with the west. And oil contracts signed during Zanganeh’s ministry also faced with fundamentalists’ disagreements who claimed that these contracts look like Torkamanchay Treaty. Yet their high votes prove that there are a considerable number of moderate fundamentalists in the parliament.
» Running the government with budget that doesn’t exist
Now the cabinet will be formed with two empty seats. One is the seat for Ministry of Research, Science, and Technology, for which Rouhani has not proposed anyone yet. And the other is the seat for Energy Ministry whose proposed minister did not gain the vote of confidence. Before Parliament’s voting for his proposed ministers, Rouhani pointed out to difficulties of the government under present conditions, saying “under present conditions in the world, the path to ruling is not paved and easy for Europe, America, Asia and other continents, let alone us in this chaotic region and with problems that are left for us from the past.”
Enumerating high costs of government in providing for credit funds, cash subsidies, development fund, and government’s debt to the private sector and the Central Bank, Rouhani said half of the budget has already been spent in this way, and “nothing is left, so we have a tough time ahead.” The president’s analysis shows the difficult situation he is facing for fulfilling his campaign promises.
Translated Piece: Zaitoun Website
Opinions in this article reflect the writer’s point of view, not necessarily the view of The Arabain GCIS