President Hassan Rouhani’s nominees for two vacant seats at his cabinet were approved by the Islamic Republic parliament.
Mansour Gholami, the nominee for the ministry of Science, Research and Technology won the parliament’s confidence vote with 180 votes in favor, 82 against and fourteen abstentions on Sunday evening, October 29.
The nominee for the Ministry of Energy, Reza Ardakanian took the last vacant seat at Rouhani’s cabinet with 225 votes cast in his favor, 38 votes against him and thirteen abstentions.
While conservatives had already declared their support for Gholami, the reformists faction, Omid (Hope) preferred to keep mum and leave the decision to its members.
Earlier, hundreds of Iranian students had criticized Rouhani for his choice for Minister of Science, Research and Technology, who oversees higher education institutions.
In a letter addressed to the Iranian president, 525 students said that his nominee for the job had a proven record in neglecting students’ rights and freedoms.
Later, dozens of university professors echoed the students' concern, bitterly criticizing Rouhani for picking Gholami as his nominee. Ignoring the protests, Rouhani decided to go ahead.
Meanwhile, an Omid faction member, Fatemeh Zolqadr announced that only nine reformist MPs voted for Gholami.
When Rouhani presented his new cabinet in August, he left the position of Science, Research and Technology in his all male cabinet vacant.
Rouhani, reportedly nominated new ministers in coordination with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, but, they have apparently been unable to agree on a nominee for the post.
Though the Supreme Leader, ayatollah Ali Khamenei has no legal power to have a say in picking a nominee for the position, his official website maintained, “Regarding some ministries, including the Science, Education, and Culture ministries, the leader is sensitive, since deviation in their work would deviate the move of the entire country on the path to our ideals”.
Rouhani was immediately accused of compromising with Khamenei and deviating from his promises during last May's presidential campaign.
Now, by nominating Gholami, Rouhani has once again become a target for criticism and accused of submitting to Khamenei’s will.
However, while defending the new nominee, Rouhani categorically denied that a deal with Khamenei and his close conservative allies had been brokered behind the scenes.
In an interview with Radio Farda, Prague based Iranian journalist, Farnoush Amirshahi noted, “It seems that Rouhani was resolved to compromise and stop opening up a new front over the ministry of Science, Research and Technology”.
Furthermore, Ms. Amirshahi maintained that the outcome of Sunday evening voting proved that the parliament’s pro-reform majority is devoid of any consistency.
Gholami’s credential was approved at a time that more than 145 students’ societies, 525 activists working for students’ publications, more than 3,000 members of Rouhani’s presidential campaign headquarters and more than fifty Sharif University professors had protested the choice, accusing him of being an ultraconservative figure and hostile to the students’ rights.
Nevertheless, at parliament’s Sunday session, Gholami responded by presenting himself as figure “risen from reformists [camp]”.
Rouhani also reminded the Iranian legislators, “We interacted with patience, but, we did not make a bargain [over the ministry of Science, behind the scenes]. I am firmly for universities freedom, safety and future of the students and the path the government has taken from the beginning”.