Tag Archives: parliamentary veto

Iran – Conservative Parliament rejects President-nominated Minister of Science

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Yesterday, October 29, the Iranian parliament has rejected the President Rouhani-nominated new Minister of Science and Education, Mahmoud Nili Ahmadabadi, after Reza Faraji-Dana was removed from the same post by the parliament in August.

This is the latest chapter in an on-going battle between the majority conservative factions in parliament and the moderate president Hassan Rouhani. The stakes on high because the deadline for the definitive nuclear deal with the 5 + 1 is approaching and Iranian conservatives do not seem ready to accept that it will be their moderate, reformist enemy who will be remembered as the President who put an end to sanctions and to the decades-long cold war against the United States.

The latest blow to Rouhani came yesterday morning when after almost three hours of debate Nili-Ahmadabadi lost the investiture vote with 160 votes against his nomination and 79 in favour. Nili-Ahmadabadi was nominated by Rouhani last month and was introduced to parliament on October 22. The conservative opponents of Rouhani have accused him of proposing candidates who are friendly to the West or who back ‘sedition’ against the ruling establishment, reviving anti-Green Movement rhetoric.

During the discussion in parliament, MPs questioned Nili-Ahmadabadi over his stance in 2009 during the mass protests against the re-election of President Ahmadinejad. He admitted that he did sign a letter with fellow academics condemning attacks on student protesters inside university campuses. However, he said that ‘none of my colleagues nor I have crossed the red lines set by Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. You will not find a single one of us who overstepped those limits’ and added that ‘all my colleagues believe in the system (of the Islamic republic) and acted within the framework of it’.

AFP reports a Western diplomat in Tehran saying that the post of science minister is so sensitive because Iranian universities were ‘very politically active and difficult to manage.’ The same source also reports the declaration of Ahmad Shirazi, a university professor, who criticised the use of the word ‘sedition’ by conservative and principalist MPs. ‘This question of sedition has become a stick by which fundamentalists and conservatives impose their will,’ he declared. Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, a conservative MP, declared that the responsibility for the current stalemate falls on the shoulders of the government, which is unable to find a suitable candidate who needs to be able and willing to control university campuses and prevent disorders.

For his part, president Rouhani reacted to the accusations of the MPs by recalling that universities need a peaceful atmosphere to be able to promote themselves as centres of science and research. He said that the ministry has a specific importance, adding ‘we want universities to be aware of political issues but not borrow their slogans from politicians.’

Iran – President under pressure over cabinet appointments

Hasan Rouhani

The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, is having a hard time appointing his cabinet. On November 6th, 150 members of the Parliament (Majles) asked him to monitor the actions and decisions undertaken by Reza Faraji Dana, the Minister of Science, Research and Technology. The move against Faraji Dana is motivated by concerns over two of his appointees, the senior advisor Jafar Tofiqi and the deputy minister Mili Monfared, that Parliament members suspect of being involved in the 2009 electoral protests. This request follows the Parliament’s veto on October 27th of one of three proposed ministers, Reza Salehi Amiri, following the allegation that he was connected to some of the members of the 2009 Green Movement.

Since his election as President of the Republic last June, Hassan Rouhani has been struggling to form the cabinet, which needs to obtain a vote of confidence on the part of the Parliament to become operative. The popularly elected president indeed serves as Prime Minister too (the office was suppressed by the 1989 Constitutional reform), and therefore has the duty to nominate the ministers and defend his choice in front of the Parliament.

Despite being highly supportive of the President on issues related to nuclear negotiations and foreign policy, the Parliament is closely watching Rouhani’s moves when it comes to culture, education and freedom of speech. In particular, the Ministry of Science is a crucial position for all policies related to higher education. The Minister not only appoints the Chancellors of Iranian universities all over the country, he also has a significant influence when it comes to deciding university curricula and, crucially, the weight of humanities in them. This is a particularly sensitive policy area in Iran, and conflicts over higher education characterised for president Ahmadinejad’s presidential terms, for he was accused of carrying out a ‘cultural revolution’ and a ‘forced Islamization’ of campuses, social sciences and the humanities, well before and after the electoral crisis in 2009. In stark contrast to such an attitude, Rouhani recently called for ‘de-securitising’ higher education, thus increasing the concerns of the Parliament whose majority is composed of conservative groups and ‘hard-liners’. Rouhani’s moderate political orientation and his closeness to some of the political personalities connected to the Green Movement (nicknamed ‘the sedition’ by hard-liners and conservatives) have indeed been debated and, to some extent, criticised by the Parliament. The Assembly has often ‘warned’ the President not to appoint ‘seditionists’ as Ministers, and the recent conflict over Faraji Dana is a further evidence of the relevance of this debate in the country.

Although the Parliament is fully aligned with the Supreme Leader Khamenei’s support for Rouhani in foreign policy, this might not be the case for domestic and cultural policies, as the members of the legislative assembly have warned Rouhani not to disrupt the trust among the state’s bodies with inappropriate appointments.