The Majlis (parliament) has given a vote of no confidence to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's latest Oil Ministry nominee, Mohsen Tasalloti. The unprecedented third successive rejection of a cabinet appointment has left Tehran's political world in turmoil, with Majlis deputies saying it is now up to the Guardian Council to decide how to advance. It remains unclear what the constitutional watchdog will recommend (see Special Report, pages 48-50; MEED 18:11:05).
Tasalloti had appeared more likely than either of his predecessors to win Majlis support because of his limited energy sector experience, having worked for more than 15 years at National Petrochemical Company (NPC). However, his nomination was overshadowed by accusations that he supported a rival presidential candidate, had a US green card and a daughter with UK citizenship. Ahmadinejad spoke to the Majlis before the vote, calling on deputies to support his nomination. But in a show of defiance towards a president that is supposed to hail from their own faction, most of the dominant conservative faction in the Majlis voted against it. In the end, only 77 deputies out of at least 150 needed supported the nominee. Given that some of these were reformists, the level of core support the president enjoys in the Majlis is apparently very low. The oil sector is in a sorry condition because of frequent delays to major development programmes and industry sources say the rapid appointment of a new minister is vital. Contractors say little has moved forward in terms of project development for about a year, with few signs that this will change soon. Majlis deputies are incensed by the president's decision-making process, which is limited to a small core group of close aides. Ahmadinejad's repeated choice of virtually unknown men from his own circle has shown a refusal to back down. Although Tasalloti was in some circles seen as a compromise candidate, the Majlis energy commission was understood to be angry they had not been consulted first. Deputies want other parts of the conservative camp to be included in this process and are understood to have a list of their own preferred names for the Oil Ministry post. Although these have not been revealed, they are expected to include present Oil Ministry officials like NPC head Mohammed Reza Nematzadeh, National Iranian Oil Companydeputy chief Hadi Nejad-Hosseinian and National Iranian Southern Oil Companyhead Ali Beheshtian. Members of the Majlis' own energy commission would also be favoured by deputies.