Saturday, April 30, 2011

Majlis Asks Ahmadinejad to End Boycott

260 members of the Iranian Majlis, out of the parliament’s 290 MPs, in a letter have urged President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to end an eight-day boycott and accept the supreme leader’s decision to reinstate the intelligence minister. The letter was apparently written after an extraordinary close-door session of Majlis on Thursday and was disclosed today by the media.

“You are expected to adhere to the supreme leader and put an end to that which our enemies are taking advantage of,” the lawmakers wrote [Mashreq, 30 April].

Ahmadinejad has refused to attend his cabinet meetings and be present at his office since Ayatollah Khamenei reinstated the minister of intelligence Moslehi hours after Ahmadinejad had fired him.

Uskowi on Iran reported last Wednesday that Ahmadinejad has put three conditions for his return to presidency: Moslehi leaving the intelligence ministry, his political confident Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie reassuming the office of the first vice president, and the head of the Supreme National Security Council Saeed Jalili to be fired. Khamenei has not accepted any of the three conditions yet.

Last Sunday, examining Ahmadinejad’s challenge to Khamenei’s authority, we wrote that he was proclaiming a new normal for the Islamic Republic, continuing as president while disobeying the supreme leader’s orders. Something Khamenei and the conservative clerical establishment are apparently not in any mood to accept.

But the current political crisis, the most serious since President Bani Sadr was impeached and forced into exile in 1981, goes beyond the obedience issue. Ahmadinejad, Mashaie and company are introducing a nationalistic and romantic narrative of the Iranian history, emphasizing the Iranian identity of the country to be at least equal if not higher than its Islamic identity, or as they call it the Iranian Islam. The clerical establishment that came to power more than thirty years ago on the notion of exclusivity of Islam in determining the country’s identity does not agree, and sees Ahmadinejad's new-found love for the Iranian identity as serious challenge to its authority.

Meanwhile, the rulers in Tehran seem to have put serious issues facing Iran in the backburner for now: the alarming economic situation in the country and the rapidly changing political landscape in the Middle East.


reader said...

Please can someone there who is versed with the Iranian constitution let us know whether the parliament’s call for Ahmadinejad to adhere to the leader on executive matters is in line with the letter and the spirit of the constitution?

Mark Pyruz said...

President Ahmadinejad is performing in a manner in which popular sentiment had expected from Khatami during his tenure. But where Khatami was relatively timid, Ahmadniejad is more bold. Whether this will actually result in a more robust executive branch as well as provide the structure of what we would more readily identify as a political party structure, that remains to be seen. But I think it a mistake to reduce this into merely romantic terms of a dual historical narrative as Milani does. This is all about the relative strength and weakness of the executive branch, and the actual relevance of this representative aspect of the Iranian political system.

Anonymous said...

HAHAHAHAHA THIS IS HILARIOUS!!!! Just goes to show you that no one can predict the future.

Nader Uskowi said...

Technically the Majlis has not made the request, the great majority of MPs have written the letter, and they can do so without violating any constitutional provisions. However, the Majlis is empowered to impeach Ahmadinejad if it feels he is failing to follow his constitutional duties and working against the national interests of the country; and there is the precedent of 1981. That’s an extreme measure, however, coming close to a declaration of war on Ahmadinejad and his supporters. But in the rough and tumble politics of the Islamic Republic (and I probably need to add the adjective uncivilized) anything’s possible, see what the Majlis deputies have done against a former premier, a former president and a former speaker of their own house.

I do agree that Ahmadinejad is showing much more guts than Khatami in defending the powers of the president against the all too often interferences by the supreme leader in running day-to-day affairs of the government. But limiting the narrative on the power struggle between Ahmadinejad/his camp with Khamenei/clerical establishment solely to their different interpretation of the constitution misses a critical point: Ahmadinejad is offering a political platform so outside the norms of the Islamic Republic (Khatami always worked within the established norms). He and Mashaie seemingly want to create the second IRI, with severe limits on the powers of the cleric establishments, and appealing to Iranian nationalism to broaden the base. I believe this is not a typical power struggle and jockeying for more power, this might be the most serious ideological struggle within the IRI.