Iran: No Welcome For President's New Elite
Bill Samii, Radio Free Europe
Iranian parliamentarians are accusing the country's president, Mahmud
Ahmadinejad, of replacing many serving government officials with individuals
from the security and intelligence community. Lawmakers have been particularly
critical of Ahmadinejad's selection of provincial governors-general. The Iranian
president appears to be creating a new leadership elite upon whom he can depend
if the country faces a security crisis. The same team could also help win him
elections for years to come.
Ahmadinejad represents the
consensus Iranian view on some issues -- such as the pursuit of nuclear energy.
But he does not enjoy wholehearted support on domestic issues. The legislature
has already created two sets of crises for the president -- one over his choice
of cabinet members and the other regarding his budget. Now they are challenging
him on his selection of provincial officials as well.
Deputy Interior Minister Gholam Hussein Bolandian announced in
early February that all but one of the country's 30 governors-general have been
replaced, as have half the governors, "Hamshahri" and "Etemad-i Melli" reported
on 7 February, and many upper-level managers in the Interior Ministry.
Bolandian said the substitutions reflect the difference in priorities
between the Ahmadinejad administration and the previous administration of
"The policy of Mr. Khatami's administration was to
promote reforms and strengthen of civil institutions and parties," Bolandian
said, "and high government representatives in the provinces were selected in
conformity with that policy." The Ahmadinejad administration, he continued, is
focused on "justice and compassion," and chose people who will implement this
When the changes were initiated in September,
however, the talk was not of justice or compassion. There were allegations that
prospective governors-general were being vetted by two of the unsuccessful
nominees for cabinet posts, "Iran" reported on 14 September 2005.
Moreover, legislators and other observers expressed concern that
Interior Minister Hojatoleslam Mustafa Purmohammadi was selecting individuals
with ties to the intelligence and security agencies, and they complained that
the administration was not consulting with parliamentarians about its
Conservative legislator Mohammad Hussein Farhangi said at the
time that governors-general represent the executive branch at the provincial
level, so their selection is as important as that of cabinet members, "Iran"
reported on 14 September 2005.
Therefore, Farhangi added, "The interior
minister must heed the demands of the [parliamentarians] about not employing as
government officials people with intelligence and security links and background.
Otherwise, he will certainly encounter problems in the
Reshuffling government officials is a commendable way to involve
new people in running the country, the conservative Satar Hedayatkhah commented
in "Aftab-i Yazd" on 13 September 2005. However, he continued, the wholesale
replacement of governors-general with people from intelligence and security
agencies would be unacceptable.
executive branch has the right to appoint anybody it desires, a third
conservative, Ahmad Tavakoli from Tehran, acknowledged, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported
on 28 September 2005. "However," he continued, "there are some objections to the
fact that all the appointments involve individuals who are former members of a
specific ministry [a reference to the Ministry of Intelligence and
So far, the Interior Ministry has not provided a complete
list of governors-general, nor do all the provinces have websites that provide
that information. The information that is available, however, does show that
some people with security and military backgrounds are now serving in these
Kerman's Abdul Hamid Raufinejad, for example, is one of the
24 Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) commanders who in 1999 signed a letter
to Khatami threatening to take matters into their own hands if he did not quell
student riots going on at the time. Mazandaran's Abutaleb Shafeqat also served
in the IRGC.
The governor-general of Khuzestan Province, Amir
Hayat-Moqaddam, was a general in the IRGC and served as commander of its air
force. He appears to share Ahmadinejad's religious convictions. In mid-February
he told a meeting of provincial prayer representatives that roughly $1.25
million has been dedicated to mosque development and renovation, and that
because a number of major local highways lack mosques, his office will build
them, Ahvaz provincial television reported on 16 February.
At least two
other appointees have the kind of background the legislators find objectionable.
Isfahan Province's governor-general, Seyyed Morteza Bakhtiari, headed the State
Prisons Organization. Seyyed Solat Mortazavi, the governor-general in South
Khorasan Province, was the director of security and training at the State
Prisons Organization, as well as the license holder for the conservative
In a number of cases,
legislators objected because the individuals chosen as governors-general were
not actually from the province. Two legislators from Sistan va Baluchistan
Province submitted their resignations on the grounds that the administration had
gone back on its promise to consult with them on the appointment. They
subsequently withdrew their resignations after meeting the appointee, Habibullah
Dahmardeh, a Shi'ite Sistani from the predominantly Sunni Baluchi province,
"Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 17 September 2005.
These were not the only
demands for parliamentary input in the selection process. Shiraz's Mohammad Nabi
Rudaki said he and his colleagues from Fars Province insisted on a
governor-general from that province, but so far two people from elsewhere have
been interviewed for the job, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported. The Interior Ministry did
not consult with the Fars legislators sufficiently, he continued, and when they
instead contacted the ministry, officials there simply advised them to monitor
the governor-general's activities and ask to have him replaced if he is deemed
The representative from Rasht, Ramezanali Sadeqzadeh, also
complained of executive branch indifference to the input of legislators,
"Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 21 November 2005. Interior Minister Purmohammadi
asked a meeting of legislators from Gilan Province for a list of three local
candidates, and promised that nobody from the police, military, or security
agencies would be selected.
Purmohammadi rejected the first three names
and requested new ones, Sadeqzadeh continued. However, the new governor-general
introduced in late November was not one of the individuals nominated by either
the Gilan Province parliamentarians or the provincial representative of Supreme
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It was the onetime deputy police commander,
General Abdullahi, Sadeqzadeh said. He added that he has nothing against
Abdullahi, but if the interior minister, cabinet, and president are going to
ignore the opinions of officials from the province, why do they take up their
Same As It Ever Was
Ahmadinejad campaigned against
the cronyism and corruption of previous administrations. Indeed, the family of
his chief competitor, Ali-Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, has allegedly grown
enormously wealthy by taking advantage of the state-economy nexus. Moreover, the
"aqazadeh" phenomenon, in which the offspring of clerics take advantage of their
high-level connections to enrich themselves, is notorious.
appointments Ahmadinejad has made -- whether at the cabinet level or at the
provincial level -- do not appear substantially different. Two of the new
governors-general, Kamran Daneshju from Tehran Province and Dehmardeh from
Sistan va Baluchistan, both taught at the Elm va Sanat University, as did
Ahmadinejad. Qorbani, who was introduced as the governor-general of West
Azerbaijan Province, was a manager in the Tehran municipality when Ahmadinejad
was the capital's chief executive. Ali Mohammad Shaeri, who was appointed as
governor-general of Gulistan Province in early November, is a local. But he also
served as the mayor of Tehran's District 22, Gorgan representative Mohammad
Abbasi said, Fars News Agency reported on 7 November 2005.
appointment of former Revolutionary Guards, furthermore, has several
implications. The first is that Ahmadinejad, a former member of the IRGC, trusts
people with a shared background and with whom he feels a connection. The second
is that such people are more likely to use force to deal with civil unrest, and
they would be more willing to implement martial law should there be a crisis.
The third implication is that the appointments are a payoff for the support the
IRGC and the Basij militia gave Ahmadinejad during the election.
Ahmadinejad and his cohorts claimed that they would decentralize the
state and give greater power to the provinces. But it appears that all they are
doing is creating a new Iranian elite that will dominate the political system at
many levels for at least eight years -- the length of two presidential terms.
The new officials could influence elections for the Assembly of Experts (2006
and 2014), legislature (2008 and 2012), executive branch (2009 and 2013), and
municipal councils (2007 and 2011).
The efforts of the Ahmadinejad
administration could be out of ideological conviction, or they could reflect
personal ambition and the quest for self-enrichment. Either way, after just six
months in office, Ahmadinejad is looking very much like the politicians who
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