Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Friday, November 10, 2006

Iran's Mundane Politics

For the past few days Americans have been preoccupied with the mid-term elections. When thinking about Iran, Americans probably think about its nuclear development program. But, within the context of comparative politics, it's important to understand how governing is done and how policy is made.

Bill Samli's summary of reports from Iran about personnel and policy changes within the government there offer glimpses of the structure of the government and the politics going on there. Students ought to be able to apply these observations to what they read in their textbooks and get a clearer idea of the regime there. This article appeared on the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty web site.

Iran: Government Shakeup Hits Many Levels

"Iran's executive branch is undergoing a major shakeup in what could be an effort by President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's administration to realign its economic policy. The president has replaced two cabinet ministers, others are facing parliamentary scrutiny, and a score of top officials have quit. But the tremors could also reflect officials' dissatisfaction with policy or presidential frustration over unmet goals.



"Iranian lawmakers gave a vote of confidence to Ahmadinejad's choice to be the new cooperatives minister on November 5. Mohammad Abbasi [at right], a legislator from Gorgan, is a former university chancellor (of a branch of the Islamic Azad University) and deputy governor-general for planning affairs in the northern Mazandaran Province. He holds a doctorate in strategic management, a degree often given to military personnel...
 
"The same day that Abbasi was introduced to the legislature, October 29, lawmakers approved Abdul Reza Mesri as the new minister of welfare and social security...

"It appears that the presidential administration's grappling with difficult economic issues will continue to cause turmoil in the state apparatus -- particularly if the populist president persists in efforts to fulfill his campaign promises...
 
"At the top tier of government, the appointments... are only the most conspicuous changes. 
 
"Aftab news agency quoted an anonymous source on September 26 as saying the president has reviewed the one-year performance of each cabinet member... [and] reported that [two] ministers facing dismissal have reformist tendencies or have failed to fulfill their promises to the president.
 
"Other personnel changes have taken place below the cabinet level. About 20 mid-level officials, including deputy ministers, have either been forced to resign or have been dismissed... These changes mostly affect the economy.
 
"The president is not the only one who is unhappy with cabinet members' efforts...
 
"When Iranian media reported in mid-September that assessments of the ministers' performance had been prepared, legislator Said Abutaleb argued that those 'evaluations must certainly lead to some changes in the cabinet,' Mardom Salari reported on September 16...
 
"Meanwhile, in early October, more than 50 legislators signed a petition for the interpellation of Agriculture Jihad Minister Mohammad Reza Eskandari.
 
"One legislator, Dariush Qanbari, charged that Iranian 'agriculture is on the verge of collapse,' Mehr News Agency reported on October 9. He said 'farmers' crops [were] piling up in storehouses' while the country imports fruit from Pakistan. Qanbari also questioned the announcement of self-sufficiency in wheat production when 'at the same time we are importing 2 million tons of wheat every year.' He described the Agriculture Jihad Ministry as the most inefficient and uncooperative of ministries.
 
"But fundamentalist legislators blocked the interpellation motion...
 
"Governmental obscurity and a censored media ensure that it will be some time before the real reasons for the ministerial resignations and dismissals emerge. But it appears that the presidential administration's grappling with difficult economic issues will continue to cause turmoil in the state apparatus -- particularly if the populist president persists in efforts to fulfill his campaign promises..."

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