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In Iran, Ahmadinejad's bold gambits boost presidential power

The firebrand leader has succeeded in grabbing more control despite wide criticism at home and abroad.

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Far larger than life, images of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fill screens perched above Iran's cavernous parliament chamber where the archconservative president has come to make a pitch for his two new ministerial choices.

The replacements are "pious men" and it's his right as "coach of the team" to make adjustments, he tells the lawmakers.

The legislators offer exasperated criticism about the president's endless supply of new candidates – he has seeded like-minded ideologues at all levels of government – and his easy readiness to topple ministers. But on this day last month, they relent.

No Iranian president in recent memory has faced so much scathing and frequent attack from so many Iranian factions, or created so many powerful enemies, over issues that range from his imperious management style and eclectic economic policies, to snooty gibes from elite critics about lack of "intellectualism," analysts say.

But despite the criticism, Mr. Ahmadinejad's bold political moves have succeeded in increasing the power of his office, turning it into a post with more influence and power than at any time since Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution.

"Ahmadinejad just broke all the rules," says an Iranian journalist who asked not to be named. "Whatever he does, he's always giving orders, giving commands – it projects an image of power."

"He's bold and idiosyncratic. He's not afraid of using unconventional methods," says a political analyst in Tehran. "All the presidents before now were consulting with [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Sayyed Ali] Khamenei on major issues, but he doesn't feel the need to do this.

"He has made the presidency much more powerful, but made a mess with his power – administrative chaos, and allocating economic resources," says the analyst of the president's performance. "Because of pressure from outside he [believes] himself invincible."

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