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September 2017, No. 85

Cover Story

Majlis Approves Rouhani’s Ministers, Except One

Rouhani also appointed three women to top posts in his cabinet, keeping the share of females in his second administration at the same level as his first.

President Hassan Rouhani’s new ministers have won the Iranian Parliament’s vote of confidence, except the pick for the energy portfolio who had already served in the post under a reformist administration. 

Habibollah Bitaraf did not make it to the cabinet on August 20, with 133 votes cast in his favor, 132 votes against him and 17 abstentions. 

Rouhani addressed the Parliament before the voting, saying that the top foreign policy priority for his new government was to protect the nuclear deal from being torn up by the United States.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who has come under criticism from some politicians over the nuclear agreement, had a convenient pass with 236 votes. Only 26 lawmakers opposed him, while 26 others abstained.    

“The most important job of our foreign minister is first to stand behind the JCPOA, and not to allow the US and other enemies to succeed,” Rouhani said, referring to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. 

“Standing up for the JCPOA means standing up to Iran’s enemies,” he added. 

Minister of Petroleum Bijan Namdar Zangeneh, who faced criticism from some lawmakers, also kept his post with a clear margin of 230-35 votes and 23 abstentions.  

Rouhani’s choice for Ministry of Road and Urban Development, Abbas Akhundi, also received enough votes to keep his post despite opposition voiced by a number of lawmakers.

The new Minister of Defense, Brigadier General Amir Hatami, received the highest number of votes, with 261 MPs supporting him. Only 10 lawmakers voted against him while 13 others abstained.     

The President has to appoint a caretaker for the Energy Ministry, and has three months to name a new minister. For the science, research and technology portfolio, Rouhani has not nominated a minister either.

Rouhani won re-election back in May. He took the oath of office early August after being formally endorsed as the Iranian chief executive by Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Separately on August 8, the Iranian chief executive appointed Eshaq Jahangiri as the First Vice President of his new administration. Jahangiri held that same position under Rouhani’s first term.

Rouhani Appoints 3 Women Cabinet Members

Rouhani also appointed three women to top posts in his cabinet, keeping the share of females in his second administration at the same level as his first.

In separate decrees issued on August 8, Rouhani appointed Massoumeh Ebtekar as Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, La’ya Joneydi as Vice President for Legal Affairs and Shahindokht Molaverdi as his Special Aide for Citizenship Rights.

Ebtekar, the head of Department of Environment in Rouhani’s first-term cabinet, replaces Molaverdi for women and family affairs.

Molaverdi’s new post was created late last year, following the unveiling of the Charter on Citizens’ Rights aimed at raising awareness about public rights. She will oversee the implementation of the charter, which commits government bodies to ensure the enforcement of its 120 articles.

Of note in the cabinet lineup of the 62-year-old President was the exclusion of women.

The all-male list of cabinet ministers raised eyebrows among supporters of Rouhani and drew criticism from women activists, as Rouhani had talked about the need to address the gender imbalance in politics and business during his election campaign.

The sole female minister since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution served under Rouhani’s predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who named Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi as health minister for his second cabinet.

In his first four years in office, Rouhani had appointed three females as vice presidents, who do not require parliamentary approval, but are considered cabinet members.

During the campaign season, Rouhani made pledges to improve the livelihood of ordinary Iranians and curb unemployment by attracting foreign investment and technology.

Mideast, Economy to Top Zarif’s 2nd Term Agenda

Mohammad Javad Zarif, who is nominated to serve a second term as Iran’s top diplomat, said his priorities are to help reduce tensions in Tehran’s relations with regional states and employ diplomacy to advance Iran’s economic interests overseas.

Zarif said his second four years in office would see the ministry’s increased efforts at bridging yawning chasms in the region.

“We have no intention to aggravate tensions in the region. We want calm among countries,” he said.

Zarif said an economic department has been established in the Foreign Ministry to give it a central role in coordinating Iran’s economic activities in the world.

“Despite having inadequate facilities in other countries, we have put support for Iran’s private sector on our agenda,” he said.

US Would Pay for Killing JCPOA 

Commenting on the 2015 nuclear deal involving Iran and world powers, Zarif said the body under his watch would not budge from defending the interests of the nation and would do its best to prevent Washington from limiting the benefits Iran is entitled to.

“They can’t impose the cost of the collapse of the accord on Iran. If Americans want to block the JCPOA, they’ll have to pay the price,” he reiterated.


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  September 2017
No. 85