Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has dismissed three ministers, including the Oil Minister, Masoud Mirkazemi, on 14 May.

Citing the need to “slim down the government’s ministries”, Ahmadinejad removed the ministers, reducing the number of ministries to 17, state-run Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) reports.

Ahmadinejad plans five mergers:

  • Oil Ministry with Energy Ministry
  • Roads and Transportation Ministry with the Housing and Urban Development Ministry
  • Industry Ministry with the Commerce Ministry
  • Welfare and Social Security Ministry with the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry.

Industry and Mines Minister Ali Akbar Mehrabian and Welfare Minister Sadegh Mahsouli also left the cabinet. No announcement has been made on who will take on the newly merged ministry portfolios.

Any new ministries will have their mandates approved by parliament, which is increasingly at odds with the president. Parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani has publicly criticised Ahmadinejad’s domestic and economic policies.

Even before the announcement, the merger of the oil and electricity ministries was declared illegal by leading parliamentarians, who see it as a further attempt to strengthen Ahmadinejad’s direct control over the government.

However, the merger plan will lead the president into a confrontation with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final discretion over key ministries, including oil, foreign, intelligence and interior.

The struggle between the “two leaders’ factions is likely to become more pronounced as parliamentary and presidential elections approach in 2012 and 2013 respectively”, says Sam Ciszuk, Middle East analyst at IHS Global Insight, in an analyst note on 12 May.

Ahmadinejad has faced criticism from senior clerics and parliamentarians due to his perceived encroachment on powers reserved for the Supreme Leader.

This was heightened after he boycotted public appearances from 22 April to 1 May, which was seen as an audacious challenge to the Khamenei over the reinstatement of Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi, who resigned earlier in the month.