How Iran's new premier was selected in Majlis

Iran's Majlis (parliament) now faces a decision on approving Muhammad Ali Rajai, the man just nominated as the country's new prime minister. The vote, scheduled for Aug. 11, is expected to be little more than a formality, because a majority of the deputies already had given their approval for Mr. Rajai in a secret poll taken four days ago, before he was nominated by President Abolhassan Bani-Sadr.

Two weeks ago, the Iranian President named another man, but discreetly withdrew the nomination after it became clear that the Majlis would not approve him. This was the result of a power struggle between Mr. Bani- Sadr and the powerful Islamic Republican Party (IRP).

To overcome the deadlock, the President proposed that a parliamentary commission should be set up to examine what was described as the eligibility of candidates for the premiership.

A total of 13 names was proposed by various bodies to the commission: it included that of Mr. Rajai and the first nominee, Mostafa Mir-Salim. Also included on the list was Jalaluddin Farsi, an IRP hard-liner whom Mr. Bani-Sadr strongly resisted because he felt the IRP was imposing Mr. Farsi on him.

After deliberating for some than a week, the commission selected four of the candidates and held a secret poll in parliament. Mr. Rajai received the highest number of votes: 107 out of 150 cast. Mr. Farsi, whose name reportedly was among the final four, was outvoted.

What has happened in the process is that the IRP has won a subtle victory over the President. Months ago, after Mr. Bani-Sadr was elected in January, IRP chief Ayatollah Muhammad Beheshti told a press conference attended by foreign journalists that the President had to be reduced to a figurehead. He vowed that the party would do just that.

Mr. Bani-Sadr may finally have acquiesced to that by allowing the Majlis to choose a prime minister, leaving him only the formality of nominating the same man. By allowing the parliament to take from him his constitutional right to name a premier of his own choice, he has certainly set a precedent that may lead to a weakening of the presidency.

Mr. Bani-Sadr appears also to have given in on another point. He had earlier insisted that he would accept no responsibility for a Cabinet chosen from a single party. But Mr. Rajai, the man he has nominated, has stated publicly that his Cabinet would be chosen from a single party. Mr. Rajai himself is a member of the IRP, from whom his Cabinet members are expected to come.

What his emergence as Iran's prime minister will mean, therefore, is a strengthening of the hold of the IRP over Iranian affairs, something it has already done is spheres outside the capital.

A Cabinet made up entirely of IRP members almost certainly will include Mr. Farsi as either foreign or defense minister. Mr. Farsi's statements in the recent past do not augur well for Iran's relations with the West. In particular , they do not raise hope that the hostage crisis will be resolved in the near future.

If Mr. Rajai and Mr. Bani-Sadr are able to get along together, it would mean that they could have a moderating influence on Mr. Farsi, who may turn out to be a troublemaker in the Cabinet.

But Mr. Rajai's economic ideas appear at first glance to be slightly naive. He has spoken in one breath of encouraging Iran's capitalists to resume their activities in building up the country's economy, and in another of redistributing the wealth of the rich to the poor.

The economic policies that will eventually be followed will probably be those of the IRP -- which are not very clear, either. The emergence of the IRP as the ruling party in Iran is probably linked directly to the activities of the Islamic Associations of Iranian Students in North America and Europe.

These associations are affiliated with the IRP both inside Iran and abroad. They are quasi-religious groups that have been using religion as a cover to achieve political aims, as often as not by fascist methods.

The students who have been involved in clashes with the police in the United States, Britain, and the Vatican were all members of the Islamic associations, and it probably was no coincidence that the clashes occurred while Iran was involved in the process of selecting a prime minister.

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