Iran's embattled President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose disputed re-election unleashed the worst crisis in the Islamic republic's history, appealed to parliament today to approve his new cabinet. "I hope the majlis will firmly approve all ministers and with a decisive vote it will turn the hopes of ill-wishers into despair," he told MPs as he introduced his proposed line-up at the start of a three-day debate ahead of a vote of confidence on Wednesday.
Mr Ahmadinejad said his victory in the June 12 presidential election was confirmation that the Iranian people wanted his government to "continue on the same path" of his first four-year term. "We are committed to spreading justice, preserving the national dignity, achieve progress and confront the bullying powers. We will continue to support oppressed nations and cooperate constructively with all nations except the Zionist regime," he said of arch-foe Israel.
But Mr Ahmadinejad faces a daunting task in securing a mandate from the conservative-dominated assembly for his line-up which includes several new faces, among them three women - a first in the Islamic republic. Lawmaker Ali Akbar Yousefnajed, who was a senior official in the government of Mr Ahmadinejad's reformist predecessor Mohammad Khatami, criticised the hardliner for selecting several new faces.
"The president used the same words in qualifying his cabinet as he used four years ago. How come we have 14 new faces?" he asked. "Where are those who were sacked in the last four years?" During his first term, Mr Ahmadinejad received flak for firing 10 ministers, two central bank chiefs and several other top officials. But conservative MP Hossein Garousi defended the new line-up. "The nominees are highly educated and they coordinate well with the president," he said. "If we saw people changing (in the existing cabinet), it was because the president is very meticulous when it comes to management."
The confidence vote comes as Iran is gripped in political turmoil after Ahmadinejad's re-election triggered massive street protests which left at least 30 people dead and shook the pillars of the Islamic regime. Mr Ahmadinejad is under fire from his own hardline camp over several decisions he took soon after his re-election, and many MPs are furious at not being consulted over his cabinet choices.