Culture Ministry has emerged as a battleground between Khatami's supporters and the conservativesBy Steven Swindells / Reuters Tehran- Iran's President Mohammad Khatami is expected to lose at least one of his Cabinet nominees in a parliamentary vetting process that starts today, Iranian newspapers and analysts said on Monday. But despite the possible loss of critical ministers in key domestic portfolios, the 54-year-old moderate cleric will emerge with the majority of his Cabinet intact and his mandate Culture Ministry has emerged as a battleground between Khatami's supporters and the conservatives By Steven Swindells / Reuters
Tehran- Iran's President Mohammad Khatami is expected to lose at least one of his Cabinet nominees in a parliamentary vetting process that starts today, Iranian newspapers and analysts said on Monday.
But despite the possible loss of critical ministers in key domestic portfolios, the 54-year-old moderate cleric will emerge with the majority of his Cabinet intact and his mandate for change undamaged, the analysts said.
His next task after completing his Cabinet will be to begin preparations to draw up the next budget, which will also have to be approved by Parliament.
Revenues are already falling behind government forecasts because of a downturn in world oil prices, and the economy remains racked by double-digit inflation and unemployment.
Khatami's contest with Parliament over his Cabinet appointments is expected to last at least through today and Wednesday. Parliament, which starts its summer break on August 22, is expected to spend five hours on the issue today.
A newspaper on Monday said Khatami would circumvent rejection of some candidates by appointing them as vice presidents who would become de facto in charge of the ministries and would not need Parliament approval.
"If any of President Khatami's proposed ministers are rejected by the Majlis (Parliament), the president will then appoint the rejected minister, or ministers, as vice president," the Iran News said in its Monday editorial.
Khatami has said that vice presidents are members of the Cabinet in addition to the 22 portfolios, and analysts said it was likely he would also appoint vice presidents for youth affairs and women's issues.
At least some of the 22 proposed ministers are expected to present their programs in person to the Parliament, although an appearance by Khatami is said to be unlikely.
He has said he would respect the decision of Parliament and has a list of alternatives for Cabinet posts.
Strong opposition is expected by conservative factions in Parliament to Khatami's proposed minister of culture Ataollah Mohajerani and interior minister Abdollah Nouri.
His proposed agriculture minister Issa Kalantari has also come under fire from conservative-backed newspapers, while Khatami has already conceded to pressure on his appointments as intelligence and defense ministries, analysts said.
"Opponents try to weaken President Khatami's Cabinet so that for a while they can claim that the Cabinet is not functioning," Faezeh Rafsanjani, daughter of Iran's previous president, was quoted as saying by the Akhbar paper.
The Culture Ministry has emerged as a battleground between Khatami's supporters who want to breathe more freedoms into the 18-year-old republic, and conservatives who see the ministry as the main weapon against "Western cultural imperialism."
The ministry has power over the diversity of media, books, films and music allowed in the country.
Mohajerani in particular has become a lightning rod for conservatives and radicals for his support in 1990 of a resumption of talks with the United States.
"If such a person takes over the Ministry of Guidance (Culture), the cultural independence of the country will be damaged," Parliament deputy Jahanbakhsh Mohebbi told Resalat newspaper on Sunday.
The Interior Ministry has influence over the conduct of parliamentary elections and the naming of provincial governors.
Khatami was swept into power during national elections in May after scooping the votes of Iranian youth, women and middle classes who saw in him a leader able to inject social and economic freedoms into the stern Islamic state.
Parliament is led by Speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri, whom Khatami crushed at the elections, getting nearly 20 million votes compared to Nateq-Nouri's seven million.
Ultimate power, particularly in foreign relations, in the country of 60 million people rests firmly in the hands of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.