TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s parliament handed a victory Thursday to new President Hassan Rouhani, approving 15 of his 18 proposed Cabinet ministers, including nominees to head the key ministries of oil and foreign affairs.
The vote culminated four days of often rancorous discussions that were nationally televised. The debates represented a rare public airing of problems besetting the Islamic republic, including corruption, economic malaise and environmental woes.
Most of the nominees are veterans of the Iranian political system, having served under former Presidents Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami, both considered mentors of Rouhani.
The new Cabinet members are expected to be key players in Rouhani’s plans to improve relations with the outside world, revive Iran’s financial outlook and push to roll back Western sanctions that have battered the economy.
The three nominees who were rejected were Rouhani’s picks for relatively minor posts.
The nomination process was the first major challenge facing Rouhani, who was inaugurated Aug. 4 and promptly submitted his Cabinet choices. Rouhani, considered a moderate, was elected in June in a surprise victory that highlighted many Iranians’ desire for change and an improved economy.
Among those receiving a vote of confidence from lawmakers Thursday was Mohammad Javad Zarif, a U.S.-educated former ambassador to the United Nations who is the president’s choice for foreign minister. Many observers in the West welcomed the nomination of Zarif, who is generally seen as favoring renewed engagement with the United States and Europe.