Tehran: Hard-line parliamentarians challenged on Monday the Cabinet proposed by Iran`s new president, accusing him of nominating ministers who are friendly to the West or who back "sedition" against the country`s clerically dominated system of government.
President Hasan Rouhani fired back at his critics, saying he chose Western-educated ministers based on their competence and that the country is tired of "extremism."
In what is expected to be three days of debate ending Wednesday, legislators will vote individually to approve or reject each minister in Rouhani`s 18-member Cabinet.
Hard-liners are using the debates to launch their first major salvo against Rouhani`s agenda since his election in a landslide victory in June, won with the backing of centrists and reformists.
The new president has pledged to improve an economy ravaged by international sanctions through empowering technocrats and mending bridges with the rest of the world. He took the oath of office on Aug. 4 and sent his proposed Cabinet list to the parliament the same day.
Rouhani`s victory - he won an outright majority in the first round of the vote, leaving all his rivals far behind - gives him a strong mandate. But conservatives still dominate parliament.
The core of Rouhani`s team includes figures whose academic pedigrees run through places such as California, Washington and London. Rouhani himself studied in Scotland.
But hard-line lawmakers implied some of the Cabinet nominees were trying to bring down Iran`s clerically dominated system, linking them to the 2009 street protests, referred to by hard-liners as "sedition."
"A majority of the proposed Cabinet are either members of the seditious (group) or Western-educated figures," hard-line lawmaker Ataollah Hakimi told the house. "Why are you (Rouhani) seeking to revive sedition?"
Hossein Shariatmadari, editor of the hardline daily Kayhan who is close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said some of the proposed ministers deserve to be jailed. "Participation in the 2009 Israeli-American (engineered) sedition is nothing other than selling the country and committing treason. The place for those who participated in the sedition is prison, not the ministry," he wrote today.
Rouhani suggested that the Iranian electorate, weary of economic hardships linked to sanctions imposed on Iran over its disputed nuclear program, has endorsed his agenda. "Society is tired of extremism. Moderation is the path the nation has welcomed," he said.