Iran’s Supreme Leader Orders Postponement of Khatami's Inauguration
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, postponed Sunday's swearing-in of reformist President Mohammad Khatami before Parliament, said reports.
Khamenei said in a statement read out on television that the ceremony should not take place before a power struggle between reformists and conservatives, which has plunged the Islamic republic into a constitutional crisis, is settled, said AFP.
Reformist lawmakers and the conservative judiciary have clashed over representation on Iran's powerful, conservative-controlled Guardians Council.
Parliament Saturday rejected candidates nominated by the judiciary to take seats on the council, which rules on constitutional matters.
"It is appropriate that the investiture ceremony in Parliament take place after the nomination of the members of the council," Khamenei said in the statement, which effectively blocks Khatami, who won a landslide victory in June 8 presidential elections, from forming a government.
The announcement created confusion among members of Parliament, said the New York Times, “with none who were reached by telephone willing to express their opinion about the matter or hazarding a guess as to how or when the conflict might be resolved.”
Several pro-reform MPs have been summoned to court in recent weeks to defend themselves against charges such as inflaming public opinion.
The Guardians Council, which supervises elections and examines laws to ensure their compatibility with the Constitution and Islamic precepts, is composed of 12 members.
Six are chosen by Khamenei, as supreme leader, and six by Parliament from a list prepared by the judiciary. Selections of half the council's positions are renewed every three years – Albawaba.com
This latest face-off between the reformist Parliament and the conservative Guardian Council stems from the tangled system of checks and balances built into Iran's system of government. Ayatollah Khamenei appoints half of the 12-member body, and the other six are nominated by the judiciary. Although the six appointed - always clergymen - take their seats automatically, the six judges need approval by Parliament.
The judiciary, a branch of government allied with Ayatollah Khamenei, has submitted nine names in the last month to fill three open seats. All but one have been rejected by Parliament, with reformist allies of President Khatami condemning them as conservative political appointees lacking legal experience. According to the language of the Constitution, all 12 members of the council have to be in place for whatever Parliament does to be legitimate.
Mr. Khatami is expected to carry on with his duties as president with his old cabinet until the matter is resolved. Although there had been demands by some reformists for a more activist cabinet, some members of Parliament and others believed that factional struggles among the reformists may prompt the president to renominate most of the present cabinet.
The struggle between the conservatives and the reformists has largely stymied any change in Iran since Mr. Khatami was first elected in 1997. Attempts at change have been thwarted by conservatives, using their domination of the military, the courts and the broadcast media - all controlled by Ayatollah Khamenei. The conservatives fear that a more open political system and relaxed social regulations will dilute the Islamic foundations of the revolution, not to mention diminishing their own power.
Dozens of reformists have been jailed on various charges of seeking to undermine the state, and more than 40 publications have been closed. Last August, Ayatollah Khameini intervened to quash an attempt by Parliament to introduce a new, more liberal press law.
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)