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Majlis falls behind Ahmadinejad defense min pick

Ahmad-Vahidi

Iran’s parliament resumed the third day of debates on President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s proposed cabinet by expressing full support for the nominee for defense minister.

Tuesday saw lawmakers at the Majlis in downtown Tehran review the credentials of seven of the 21-member cabinet, many of them dubbed as “inexperienced” by some parliamentarians.

The president’s choice for the Social Welfare Ministry, Fatemeh Ajorlou received harsh criticism from lawmakers, with some accusing her of “copying” her proposals for the ministry from books and the internet to make up for her lack of knowledge of social welfare.

The 43-year-old psychology graduate hit back by saying, “I wonder whether an energy minister would also need to have academic knowledge of both electricity and water to take the job.”

“If psychology is not directly related to people and their welfare, then what is?” she asked.

During vetting sessions, two lawmakers can take the floor to voice opposition to a ministerial nominee, while two can defend the proposed candidate.

Ajorlou’s supporters on the other hand called on fellow lawmakers to consider the nominee’s “sacrifices” and “commitment to the Islamic revolution” when casting their vote of confidence or no confidence.

Two of Ajorlou’s brothers had been military commanders “martyred” during 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, while another one is a veteran.

Another nominee debated during the session was the president’s defense minster pick. Defense minister-designate Ahmad Vahidi received overhelming support from the conservative faction of parliament.

Although some lawmakers had previously signed up to talk against Vahidi’s nomination, none of them showed up. One lawmaker even interrupted Vahidi’s speech to announced that he has had a change of heart, due to “Zionist opposition” to the minister-designate.

Israel has voiced concern over Vahidi’s nomination, with a Foreign Ministry spokesman saying the nomination proves that Iran’s President is “a person you cannot deal with.”

Other deputies in the assembly chanted “Death to Israel” in support of Vahidi.

Four other ministerial nominees appearing in Tuesday morning’s session in parliament also took the floor to address the concerns of lawmakers.

The proposed justice and agriculture ministers did not receive any criticism, while Health Minister designate, Marzieh Vahid Dastjerdi was grilled for her plans.

“Certain problems in the health sector have not been included in plans presented by the proposed minister of health,” the representative from the northwestern city of Khoy, Moayyed Hosseini Sadr said.

President Ahmadinejad submitted his final list of 21 candidates for the next cabinet on August 19. Nearly two-thirds of the nominees are new faces.

To take office, the potential ministers will have to gain the Parliament’s vote of confidence by winning the approval of the majority of the lawmakers.

Majlis is scheduled to complete the vetting process and give votes of confidence or no confidence to President Ahmadinejad’s 21-member Cabinet on Wednesday or Thursday.

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