On Wednesday, the Iranian Parliament concluded the vote of confidence process for President Ebrahim Raisi’s proposed cabinet. Majlis approved all ministers named by Raisi, except for Hossein Baghgoli, who was nominated as Minister of Education. Wednesday’s voting marks the beginning of hardline cleric Raisi’s era in Iran, following a landslide victory in the low-turnout presidential election held in June.
On August 5, Iran’s new president Ebrahim Raisi was sworn in at a ceremony held in Parliament. With Raisi’s presidency, the anti-Western bloc in the country can be said to have taken control of all branches of power in Iran.
Iran’s President submitted his cabinet to parliament for a vote of confidence on August 11. Last Saturday, Iranian lawmakers gathered to discuss the eligibility of the names put forward by Raisi for ministerial positions. During the five days of debate, the lawmakers evaluated all nominees based on their competence one by one.
Before the lawmakers cast their ballots for the vote of confidence, President Raisi addressed the Parliament, saying, “introducing the proposed ministers to the Islamic Consultative Assembly was based on criteria such as efficiency, expertise, democracy, anti-corruption, and honestly with the people that I promised to the people during the election campaign.” He also pointed out all of his none of his nominees are involved in corruption.
After the last session of discussion on Monday, Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf declared the results, and the nominee for the Ministry of Education became the only person who the parliament had not approved.
Now, Raisi has three months to propose another name for the Ministry of Education according to Iranian law.
Some analysts consider the rejection of Baghgoli’s nomination by Majlis, dominated by hardliners, as a clear message for Iran’s new president, pointing out that they would not welcome all Raisi’s demands without any resistance. Given that Baghgoli is a relative of Raisi’s wife and his qualification is as high as those who got admittance from the Parliament, the message becomes much clearer.
In last week, some members of the ultra-conservative political party, Paydari, expressed their objections towards the nomination of Baghgoli as Ministry of Education. There were some other legislators who emphasized several flaws in terms of Baghgoli’s qualifications and proposals.
During the last two months, a number of conservative and reformist specialist has already drawn attention to the tension between Raisi and Parliament is likely to expand over who would have the most authority. As Raisi is presumably aware of this situation, he said, “unlike the strained relations between former presidents and the parliament, ties between the two are going to be different from now on,” during his speech on Wednesday.
Like Mehdi Mahdavi Azad, some other analysts consider that the gap between cabinet ministers and Raisi’s deputies could give a path to challenges for the government and ordinary Iranian people.
Earlier in August, Raisi appointed his first vice president Mohammed Mokhber as the core of his economic team. But, when Raisi named Mohsen Rezaei, former IRGC Commander and Expediency Council Secretary, as vice president for economic affairs on Wednesday, Iran’s President also put him in charge as the head of the higher council of economic coordination and the secretary of the government’s economic headquarters. Rezaei was also among presidential candidates for the June 18 election, whose nomination had been rejected by the Guardian Council.
Now, the only position in economy administration which is waiting to be filled is the governor of the Central Bank of Iran. The name of Farhad Rahbar, who is reportedly influential in determining Raisi’s cabinet list, has circulated for that post.
This situation is considered as a sign of uncertainty within Raisi’s economic team about how the group should work.
Another salient name among Raisi’s cabinet members is Hossein Amir Abdollahian. He was named as foreign minister by Ebrahim Raisi. A former ambassador to Bahrain, Amir Abdollahian is said to have close links with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and Lebanon’s Iranian-backed Hezbollah movement. Previously serving as deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs between 2011-2016, the new foreign minister is known to be anti-Western.
Among Raisi’s cabinet list, there are several commanders of the IRGC, including Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi.
Like Raisi, some of his ministers are on the US’ or European Union’s sanctions lists.