Tehran: Iran`s President defended his proposed Cabinet ministers on Sunday as lawmakers began what is expected to be a fierce debate over whether the nominees have the relevant credentials or are simply unquestioning loyalists.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is forming his new government while still under attack by the pro-reform opposition that his re-election in June was fraudulent. But he is also under pressure from fellow conservatives, who have long lambasted the president for hoarding power by putting close associates in key posts.
Over the next three days, the Parliament will debate ministerial nominees and then vote on Wednesday.
"The great presence of Iranian people in the election has put a confirmed seal on the performance of the government in the last four years and they want this path to continue," Ahmadinejad said in his speech to lawmakers ahead of the debate.
"The government is more determined to come forward for serving the people using its full resources. We are committed to spreading justice, preserving the national dignity, achieve progress and confront the bullying powers. We will continue to support oppressed nations and cooperate constructively with all nations except the Zionist regime," he said referring to arch-foe Israel.
Reformist lawmakers led the attack on Sunday, criticising the background of many of Ahmadinejad`s picks for the 21-member Cabinet and also the President`s lack of a detailed plan to improve the country`s beleaguered economy. Many such policy debates have been sidelined during the post-election turmoil.
"The majority of the nominees do not have the relevant education and experience," said lawmaker Sadollah Nasiri during the session, which was broadcast live on state radio.
One of his reformist colleagues, Ali Asghar Yousefnejad, questioned how Ahmadinejad and his team would revive Iran`s economy, which suffers from high rates of inflation and unemployment, saying the president offered only "generalities and slogans”.
"What we need are practical solutions for growth and investment, housing problems, inflation and unemployment," said Yousefnejad.
Both conservatives and reformists have criticised Ahmadinejad`s management of the economy, which was one of the key issues during the recent presidential election. Yousefnejad`s criticism served as a reminder of the challenges facing the president even if he is able to overcome the increasingly bitter conflict over his re-election and the violent crackdown against protesters that followed.
Given the importance of Iran`s petroleum sector to the country`s economy, lawmakers focused on the president`s proposed oil minister, Massed Mirkazemi, as one nominee who they argued lacks the necessary experience for the job.
Prominent conservative lawmaker Ali Motahari said that Mirkazaemi, who currently serves as Commerce Minister, would be inadequate because he would be trying to learn the necessary skills on the job.
"Such inexperience ministers would need at least one year`s time to be settled in their posts," said Motahari, who also criticised the President`s picks for the energy and interior ministries.
Ahmadinejad defended Mirkazemi, calling him a "brave combatant" who would be able to manage the oil sector, which produces more than 80 percent of Iran`s foreign revenue.
But Motahari said Ahmadinejad had appointed inexperienced loyalists in an attempt to "rule the ministries”.