Iran Parliament Suffers New Setback in Fight with Conservatives
Iran's reform-led parliament suffered a new setback overnight when an arbitration body quashed a bid to curb the powers of the conservative watchdog Guardians Council, an official statement said Wednesday.
The Expediency Council, at a meeting chaired by former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani and attended by his successor, reformist President Mohammad Khatami and other leaders of the Islamic regime, ruled out proposed amendments to the electoral law.
The Expediency Council, which arbitrates in disputes between the regime's institutions, backed the Guardians in throwing out the parliament's moves, which followed the rejection of dozens of pro-reform candidates for by-elections on Friday.
The amendments said the Guardians' decisions on candidates should be approved by at least nine of the body's 12 members, and could be ignored if they were not legally justified.
After the Guardians, who vet legislation as well as election candidates but are not required to give specific reasons for their decisions, tossed out the amendments, MPs voted to postpone the by-elections.
But having learned that the issue was going to the Expediency Council, the reformists backed down on Sunday, allowing the elections to go ahead without their rejected candidates, in what analysts said was a tactical error.
Since reformers won a huge majority in parliament in parliament they have clashed on numerous occasions with the Guardians Council, which has systematically rejected legislation, notably for liberalizing the strict press code, facilitating foreign investments and defining political crimes.
Virtually every time the issue has gone to arbitration the Expediency Council has backed the Guardians, indicating the huge power still wielded by conservatives despite the election result.
Several reformist MPs have now called for a referendum on the powers of the Guardians Council ahead of the next legislative elections in 2003.
Another member of parliament, Bahman Akhavan, criticised the reformists' tactics in comments carried by the English-language Iran Daily Wednesday.
"They do it under the pretexts of political development and democracy while all they do is give rise to confusion and controversy," he said – Tehran (AFP)
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