Ministerial Confirmation Votes Indicate Conservative-Leaning Majlis

Ministerial Confirmation Votes Indicate Conservative-Leaning MajlisMinisterial Confirmation Votes Indicate Conservative-Leaning Majlis

The recent confirmation votes of proposed ministers held in the parliament on Sunday demonstrated that the conservatives carry more weight in the chamber than their reformist rivals, said a prominent political analyst.

Iranian lawmakers approved all but one of the nominees of reelected President Hassan Rouhani for his second term, with his designated energy minister, Habibollah Bitaraf, being the only one getting narrowly rejected by the 290-member assembly. He only had 133 yes-votes. Bitaraf, a two-time minister, was regarded as the most staunch reformist candidate among Rouhani's picks.

"What happened in Majlis shows that the dose of conservatism is more than that of reformism," Sadeq Zibakalam, professor of politics at the University of Tehran, wrote in a recent editorial in the reformist paper Arman.

"No matter how you interpret this, the no-confidence vote for Mr. Bitaraf is the symbol of reformists' defeat in the current parliament," he said.

For days, the issue of votes of confidence was being debated as the real litmus test for measuring up how much sway the two competing factions of conservatives and reformists have in a parliament in the absence of an outright majority.

Conservatives, known as principlists, were dealt a blow after reformist-backed candidates managed to gain a sweeping victory in the capital and other mega cities in the last round of parliamentary elections held in February 2016.

However, beyond the capital, their gains were more limited, with conservatives keeping hold of many seats in their constituencies in small towns.

Right after the election, reformists and principlists both claimed having the upper hand in the assembly, with conflicting numbers emerging from both camps. However, it would be safe to say that reformists have the support of 110-115 members of parliaments versus 120-125 lawmakers supporting the conservatives.

  Actual Kingmakers

Analysts say the large number of independents would make them the actual kingmakers in any significant motion, which fact became apparent when the majority of them backed ministers with more conservative credentials.

Zibakalam said the only true reformists in the proposed ministerial list of Rouhani, himself a moderate leaning toward reformists, were the energy minister and agriculture minister, Mohammad Hojjati. While the former was disqualified, the latter had a lackluster support of 164 in spite of a good performance in his first ministerial tenure in Rouhani's administration.

"Even figures like [Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad] Zarif and [Oil Minister Bijan] Zanganeh are not considered reformists," he said.

"It is unfortunate to see little-known ministers getting approved and a person like Bitaraf getting disqualified."

The analyst was referring to the pick for Telecoms Ministry, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, 36, in the lineup, who became the youngest nominee to make it to the latest Cabinet.

Zibakalam pointed to the role of independent lawmakers, saying the fact that these lawmakers are leaning more toward conservatives instead of reformists warrants action by the pro-reform camp to do something to redress the situation.

"Rouhani and other moderate-reformists should now come up with some effective modifications [in their policies]," he said, adding that "this will benefit the country."

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