Last updated: 11 November, 2014

Iran government submits new candidate for sensitive cabinet post

Iran’s government on Tuesday submitted a new candidate for science minister, a sensitive post which is also responsible for universities, after parliament rejected three earlier choices.

Fakhroddin Ahmadi Danesh-Ashtiani, a civil engineer who specialised in seismology, would need to win a vote of confidence in parliament to secure the post.

However, several members of parliament whistled and jeered when his nomination was announced, Iranian media said, adding that MPs are expected to vote next Tuesday or Wednesday after having examined his candidacy.

Danesh-Ashtiani was deputy education minister under Mohammad Khatami, the reformist president from 1997 to 2005.

At the end of October, President Hassan Rouhani, also considered a moderate, suffered a fresh setback when the conservative-dominated parliament for a third time rejected his candidate for the science portfolio.

A Western diplomat in Tehran told AFP that the post of science minister is so sensitive because Iranian universities are “very politically active and difficult to manage”.

Parliament in August sacked Rouhani’s previous science minister, Reza Faraji Dana, for trying to recruit to his staff people accused of involvement in a 2009 protest movement, in which thousands of university students took part.

Reformers and moderates have accused conservatives, who viewed the protests as a “plot” against the Islamic system, of working to weaken Rouhani’s government.

The role of science minister is being held on an acting basis by Mohammad Ali Najafi, whose permanent appointment has also been voted down by lawmakers.