New York Times: Taking the unusual step of limiting its own authority, Iran’s Parliament on Wednesday adopted a law that would curb its ability to review regulations issued by the most powerful, unelected institutions of the state. The New York Times
By NAZILA FATHI
Taking the unusual step of limiting its own authority, Iran’s Parliament on Wednesday adopted a law that would curb its ability to review regulations issued by the most powerful, unelected institutions of the state.
It was not immediately clear what propelled Parliament to adopt a measure that would formally undermine powers granted to it under the Constitution. But the decision seemed to be an acknowledgment of the reality that the elected Parliament was often blocked from fulfilling its role as a watchdog over the institutions of state.
The legislation did, however, appear to be another step in the political evolution of Iran to a state where appointed officials and allies of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, wield far more authority than do the elected representatives. That tension between appointed and elected officials has existed since the founding of the Islamic Republic, but the balance lately has steeply tipped in the favor of the supreme leader and the institutions run by appointed officials.
“There is a very thin line between laws and regulations in Iran,” said Fatemeh Haghighatjoo, a former member of Parliament who is a visiting scholar at the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. “Many of these internal regulations have become laws and norms that have deeply affected the country.”
Parliament’s decision, reported on two official government news Web sites, limited lawmakers’ ability to review regulations adopted by the Guardian Council, the Assembly of Experts, the Supreme National Security Council and the Expediency Council.
Those bodies’ regulations now will not be subject to parliamentary oversight but will have to go through another committee — the Supreme Council for Revising Laws — made up of several allies of the supreme leader, as well as the speaker of Parliament.
Since Iran’s disputed presidential election in June, Ayatollah Khamenei and his allies have portrayed those who challenge their decisions as enemies of the state. By voting to limit their own powers, members of Parliament may have been signaling a desire to avoid confrontations with Ayatollah Khamenei.
The Guardian Council screens candidates who run for seats on the Assembly of Experts, which has the power to review, and even dismiss, Ayatollah Khamenei.
Ms. Haghighatjoo recalled that in 1989, the Assembly of Experts chose the Guardian Council to supervise elections for assembly members, who have to be senior clerics. That was the year Ayatollah Khamenei was selected. The council has since maintained the right to supervise the assembly’s elections, Ms. Haghighatjoo said.
The council supervised the 2009 presidential election, which led to some of the largest protests in the past three decades over charges that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won through fraud. The council backed Mr. Ahmadinejad and dismissed the accusations as unfounded.
In a televised address on Tuesday night, Mr. Ahmadinejad disclosed that he had sent a letter recently to President Obama, saying that the United States “needs Iran for its survival.”
“In a letter to Obama, I mentioned this and a few other issues,” he briefly said without elaborating.
His chief of staff, Ebrahim Rahim Mashai, told The Associated Press that the letter was sent in the Iranian month of Esfand, from Feb. 20 to March 21.
“He raised questions like the attack on Afghanistan, the expansion of instability and insecurity in the region and America’s backing for terrorism,” he was quoted as saying.
Mr. Ahmadinejad had previously written letters to President George W. Bush and other world leaders.
“The aim of writing this letter is for the world to grasp the view of the Islamic Republic of Iran and also criticize U.S. policies in the region,” Mr. Mashai added.