Friday, November 25, 2005

Iran: Leadership crisis deepens

Independent - Iran's President Digs in as Leadership Crisis Deepens:

A power struggle of titanic proportions has broken out between Iran's newly elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the country's parliament. Now the President's domestic political agenda is in danger of collapse, after MPs refused to accept his choices for the top post of oil minister. And a new scandal in Tehran municipality tarnished his election promises to weed out corruption. The President's former parliamentary supporters say they have been alienated by his closed-door style of rule that has opened deep rifts in the ruling conservative faction. An investigation into municipal spending has revealed Tehran's conservative council exhausted most of its £11.6m budget for cultural activities in the run-up to June's presidential election when Mr Ahmadinejad was city mayor. Officials have admitted there is little documentation for the spending, leading to speculation that it was used unofficially for the election campaign.

Economist - He's Even Stirring Up the Oil Ministry:

He pledges to lay low those “aristocrats” who sit on a dozen managing boards, default with impunity on loans from public banks and drive armour-plated cars worth USD300,000. But the fight picked by Iran's fiery president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will be hard to win—not least because, in Iran's semi-socialist economy, the line between entrepreneur and civil servant is all but invisible and the rot so pervasive. He has already made an enemy of the architect of many of these ambiguities, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who selectively liberalised the economy when he was president in the 1990s.

...Most worrying for the president, three months into his tenure, he does not have a grip on the oil ministry, the linchpin of the system he detests. Here, Mr Rafsanjani, a grandee who retains much influence over the ministry, has been helped by parliament, which also gets on badly with the new president. This autumn, deputies have withheld votes of confidence in Mr Ahmadinejad's successive nominees to be oil minister; this week they rejected Mohsen Tasalloti, his third choice. One top oil official criticised the government's plans to spend $3 billion of oil revenues to buy petrol, of which Iran consumes far more than it produces, and its refusal to stop subsidising prices at the pump. Another questioned the existence of what the president calls the “oil mafia”...