Iran’s Top Council Designs Method to Elect Members of Watchdog Body, Khamenei Gives Nod
Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei late Monday night confirmed a top government body's choice of a method of choosing lawyers who sit on the Guardian Council (GC), thereby opening the way for President Khatami's delayed swearing-in, reported the official Iranian news agency, IRNA.
The GC, considered the watchdog of elections and parliamentary acts, must oversee part of the president's second term inauguration ceremony. This caused a minor crisis when procedural problems -- namely, two vacant seats -- and an earlier decision by Khamenei made this impossible.
The snag in the process appeared on Saturday, when Parliament failed to approve a full slate of candidates for the GC, leaving it short two members and therefore, in Khamenei's eyes, unable to proceed with its inauguration day duties.
In a letter sent to the speaker of Iran's Parliament late Saturday, Khamenei said the ceremony should be postponed until ambiguities in the Constitution -- specifically, the ground rules under which a person can be authorized as president -- can be ironed out.
As a first step towards setting matters straight, the government's high-level Expediency Council (EC) decided that if the judiciary chief's candidates for GC posts did not secure an absolute majority during Parliament's first round of voting, there would be a second round in which the two lawyers who gained the relative majority would be elected.
In their emergency session Monday, EC members discussed the controversial selection of two lawyers for two vacant GC seats.
In the meeting, the head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, Speaker of Parliament Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karroubi and Secretary of the Guardian Council Ahmad Jannati each presented their viewpoints on the issue, said IRNA.
The EC, the highest arbitration body in Iran, held the "urgent debate" Monday to deal with the ongoing spat between the judiciary and Parliament over the election of lawyers to the GC.
The EC held the session to resolve the crisis delaying Khatami's inauguration. The top state body, controlled by Khamenei, has the final say in political disputes.
Khamenei sent the head of the council, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a letter ordering the emergency meeting, according to CNN Online.
Khatami, Iran's resoundingly re-elected president, was to have been formally sworn in on Sunday. But Khamenei postponed the ceremony on Saturday because of a constitutional crisis that pitted conservative leaders against the country's reform-minded parliament.
"It is appropriate that the investiture ceremony in Parliament take place after the nomination of the members of the council," Khamenei said in a statement.
Khamenei confirmed Khatami -- who won a landslide victory in the June 8 election -- as president for a second four-year term on Thursday. But that was only half of a two-part confirmation process, which also requires a civil confirmation -- the process that hit a snag Saturday.
According to Iran's Constitution, members of the watchdog GC and other officials, including members of Parliament and the head of the judiciary, must attend the civil confirmation.
The GC consists of 12 members, six of whom are high clerics appointed by the supreme leader and six others who are lawyers nominated by the head of the judiciary branch. The council has a staggered election system so that not all of the seats come up for election at the same time.
Three seats on the Guardian Council were up for election Saturday, when Parliament voted on a list of candidates submitted by the judiciary.
But Parliament approved only one name, leaving the Guardian Council with 10 members -- not the full 12.
That threw the presidential confirmation process into crisis, since the Constitution does not specify how many members of the council must be at the presidential swearing-in ceremony -- only that the council itself must be present.
The Parliament had hoped 10 council members would suffice, but Khamenei disagreed.
According to the BBC, reformists see the intervention by Ayatollah Khamenei as a move orchestrated by the conservatives to undermine President Khatami.
It was the ayatollah's second intervention in less than 24 hours.
It came after the head of the judiciary on Sunday rejected a compromise put forward by the Karroubi.
Karroubi announced Sunday that the inauguration would take place in public on Tuesday – Albawaba.com
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