Rouhani starts new term fac­ing re­form crit­i­cism

Kuwait Times - - LOCAL -

Mod­er­ate cleric Has­san Rouhani was to be in­au­gu­rated for a sec­ond term as Ira­nian pres­i­dent in front of for­eign guests yes­ter­day, but al­ready faces crit­i­cism for re­port­edly bow­ing to con­ser­va­tives in form­ing a new gov­ern­ment. Among the guests were EU for­eign pol­icy chief Fed­er­ica Mogherini, who has vowed to con­tinue build­ing ties with Iran de­spite mount­ing pres­sure from the United States to keep the Is­lamic repub­lic iso­lated.

Meet­ing with Mogherini be­fore the cer­e­mony in par­lia­ment, Rouhani called for greater ef­forts to up­hold the 2015 nu­clear deal struck by Tehran and world pow­ers in the face of new US sanc­tions passed last week. “Re­peated breaches of com­mit­ments by the US ad­min­is­tra­tion... can be de­struc­tive,” he said, quoted by the of­fi­cial IRNA news agency. “All sides have a heavy re­spon­si­bil­ity to safe­guard this agree­ment which was achieved by a lot of ef­fort.”

Some of Iran’s older friends, in­clud­ing Zim­bab­wean Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe, also ar­rived for the cer­e­mony, which came two days af­ter Rouhani was of­fi­cially sworn in by the coun­try’s supreme leader Ay­a­tol­lah Ali Khamenei. The emir of Qatar, which has fallen out with its Gulf al­lies in part over ties to Iran, was notably ab­sent de­spite at­tend­ing Rouhani’s last in­au­gu­ra­tion in 2013. But among Ira­ni­ans, the real at­ten­tion was on who would be named to Rouhani’s new cab­i­net.

Ab­sence of women

He has al­ready been bar­raged with crit­i­cism over indi­ca­tions that women would again be en­tirely ab­sent and that his re­formist al­lies would barely be rep­re­sented. His last gov­ern­ment had three women among a large co­hort of vice-pres­i­dents, but they lacked min­is­te­rial roles that would re­quire ap­proval by par­lia­ment. “It was the re­formists that al­lowed him to win the elec­tions in 2013 and 2017... he must listen to those who sup­ported him,” Ras­soul Mon­ta­jab­nia, of the re­formist Na­tional Con­fi­dence party, told the Ar­man news­pa­per.

Rouhani won a con­vinc­ing vic­tory over hard­line cleric Ebrahim Raisi in the May pres­i­den­tial elec­tion, vow­ing to con­tinue re­build­ing ties with the West and eas­ing so­cial re­stric­tions at home. That helped win over the re­formistswhose can­di­dates dropped out of the last two elec­tions to en­sure his vic­tory. “Rouhani cre­ated a lot of ex­pec­ta­tion and now there is a sense that he is re­treat­ing from his prom­ises,” said Ali Shak­ouri­rad, head of the re­formist Peo­ple’s Unity Party. The ab­sence of women was down to pres­sure from re­li­gious con­ser­va­tives be­hind the scenes, Shak­ouri­rad said. “Rouhani didn’t want to make his task any more com­pli­cated than it al­ready is,” he told AFP. The fi­nal line-up is due to be an­nounced in com­ing days, and must then be ap­proved by par­lia­ment.

Back­room bar­gain­ing

De­spite the furor, the reshuf­fle is not ex­pected to touch big names such as For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­ham­mad Javad Zarif and Oil Min­is­ter Bi­jan Na­madar Zan­ganeh. “The main min­is­ters are very likely to stay in place,” said Henry Smith, Iran an­a­lyst with con­sul­tancy Con­trol Risks. “Rouhani will have a fairly smooth time get­ting par­lia­ment to ap­prove his ap­pointees. He’s been do­ing back and forth con­sul­ta­tions with the nec­es­sary power cen­ters-the par­lia­ment speaker, supreme leader, the Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards-and I don’t think you’ll see a sig­nif­i­cant change in eco­nomic or in­deed so­cial pol­icy,” he added.

— AP

TEHRAN: Ira­nian Pres­i­dent Has­san Rouhani, right, meets with his Iraqi coun­ter­part Fuad Ma­sum, left, at his of­fice.

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