A group of Iranian hardliners raised objections yesterday to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s decision to appoint close aide Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie as the country’s new first vice president.
“It is imperative to terminate the appointment of Mashaie as first vice president in order to respect the wishes of the majority of the people,” said Hossein Shriatmadari, managing director of the hardline Kayhan newspaper, who was appointed to his post by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
“When people found out about the appointment, they viewed this move as one taken not just in bad taste ... but as one which shows indifference [toward them],” he wrote in an editorial in the newspaper.
The appointment of Mashaie, a close confidant of Ahmadinejad, had been expected to ruffle feathers among the country’s hardliners and clerical groups who heavily influence politics in the Islamic republic.
Mashaie, whose daughter is married to Ahmadinejad’s son, is a controversial figure who last year was rapped by hardliners and Khamenei for saying Iran is a “friend of the Israeli people.”
The Islamic republic has repeatedly vowed never to recognize Israel, which was an ally of pro-US shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, ousted by the 1979 Islamic revolution.
Mashaie also provoked the ire of members of parliament for allegedly watching a Turkish woman dance while at a tourism congress in Turkey in 2007.
Ahmad Khatami, a leading hardline cleric and one of Tehran’s Friday prayer leaders, has also lashed out at Mashaie’s appointment.
“This appointment has been made in defiance to the members of the Assembly of Experts, the majlis [parliament] and several elite who have often mentioned that the post is a sensitive one,” Khatami was quoted as saying in the Jam-e Jam newspaper.
Ahmadinejad praised Mashaie as a “pious and dedicated” man who believes in the principles of the revolution of the Islamic republic.
Mashaie, currently vice president in charge of tourism, replaces Parviz Davoudi as the first vice president.
There are several other vice presidents in Ahmadinejad’s current lineup.