Iranian President Hassan Rowhani has unveiled a Cabinet of technocrats to help him tackle the formidable challenges of shoring up Iran’s economy and opening up dialogue with the West over Tehran’s controversial nuclear drive.
The 18-strong all-male Cabinet boasts a breadth of experience, with some members having served under pragmatic former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani from 1989 to 1997, and others under reformist Mohammad Khatami, who was president from 1997 to 2005.
The team, announced late on Sunday after Rowhani was sworn into office, must be confirmed by the conservative-dominated parliament, with voting expected to begin within a week, once the vetting procedures are over.
The 64-year-old moderate cleric took over from former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowing to repair the damage caused by his predecessor’s oft-provocative policies and remarks that in two turbulent four-year terms left Iran divided domestically, isolated internationally and struggling economically.
The West is hoping that Rowhani will take a constructive approach in the long-running talks on Tehran’s nuclear drive, which despite Iranian denials is suspected by world powers of having military objectives.
Immediately after being sworn in at parliament on Sunday, Rowhani presented his Cabinet line-up of seven pro-reform nominees, three conservatives, four moderates and four considered as independent.
Among nominees were veteran retired diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif as foreign minister and ex-oil minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, named to the same portfolio again.
Meanwhile, Rowhani entrusted conservatives with the crucial interior and intelligence ministries.
The list drew mixed reaction from the Iranian press yesterday, with moderate and reformist papers hailing the team’s breadth of experience while conservative outlets questioned the inclusion of “notorious” figures, Zanganeh in particular.
Arman, a paper with ties to the reformists, said in an editorial that “all members of the government will get a vote of confidence,” hailing the Cabinet as “a coordinated, strong, efficient economic team” best placed to help Iran overcome its economic pain.
However, Tehran-based moderate analyst Sadeq Zibakalam said in comments to the Fars news agency that the “centrist government would have the minimal support of reformist and conservatives” alike as it includes names from the rival camps.
Meanwhile, Conservative MP Ramezan Shojaei criticized the fact that no women were included in the Cabinet lineup.
In his only female appointment, Rowhani named Parvin Dadandish as his women’s affairs advisor.
In his inaugural speech on Sunday, Rowhani repeated a campaign pledge to improve the livelihoods of Iranians, whom he said were under “a lot of economic pressure” due to US and EU sanctions over Iran’s refusal to stop uranium enrichment.