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More Power To Iran's Most Powerful Leader


Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Iran's parliament, the Majlis, has passed a bill that deprives the legislature of the right to check three major regulatory bodies, in a move analysts say is likely to consolidate Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's power.

Reformist politicians also say if the bill becomes law it would create unnecessary impediments to potential reformist candidates for next June's presidential election.

President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, under pressure due to Iran's ailing economy, and his reformist predecessor Mohammad Khatami are expected to run in the election.

Oversight Bodies

Iranian media reported that the bill was passed on December 16 in the conservative-dominated parliament by an overwhelming majority. The reformist opposition holds less than 25 percent of the parliament seats.

In Iran's complex bureaucracy, the Guardians Council, the Assembly of Experts, and the Expediency Council all -- in theory -- provide a regulatory function.

The Guardians Council is in charge of supervising elections and vetting candidates, while the Expediency Council has the authority to mediate disputes between parliament and the Guardians Council.
When a parliament voluntarily scraps its own authorities, it means that the parliament admits it doesn't deserve such powers


The Assembly of Experts elects the supreme leader, who controls the military, the police, state media, and has the final say in all domestic and foreign policies.

Analysts have also said the supreme leader -- with his largely sympathetic majority in parliament -- might also have an eye on the parliamentary elections in 2012.

An adviser to former President Khatami, who wished to remain anonymous, tells RFE/RL that the bill is aimed at preventing a potential reformist-controlled parliament from using its rights to check the decisions of the three regulatory institutions -- and by extension the supreme leader.

Hassan Shariatmadari, a Berlin-based political analyst, tells RFE/RL's Radio Farda that by passing the bill, the legislators have taken away the public's right to check the country's leadership.

"When a parliament -- which is elected by the people and is supposed to act as the people's representative to check the management -- voluntarily scraps its own authorities, it means that the parliament admits it doesn't deserve such powers," Shariatmadari says.

Little-Used Veto

However, even reformist politicians, speaking to Radio Farda on the condition of anonymity, admit that when they had a majority in the previous Majlis between 2000-04, reformist legislators did not challenge the supreme leader over control of the three regulatory bodies.

But Hussein Bastani, an Iranian-born political analyst in Paris, says the passing of the bill is still significant.

"In the past, the Majlis has had all those rights according the constitutions, and no one denied them. Now, they have turned it into a law. Until now, the Majlis -- as a sign of respect to the supreme leader -- would ask the leader's permission [to exercise its own rights.] Now, they have no right to check and probe and it is an important development," Bastani says.

"It would take an enormous amount of courage from someone in future parliaments to reverse this decision and reinstate the parliaments rights."

To become law, the bill has still to be approved by the Guardians Council, and it is widely expected the 12-member body will endorse it in coming weeks.
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