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Protests grow in Iran over Expediency Council's direct lawmaking

Over 150 members of parliament on Sunday protested the Expediency Council over taking decision about the budget of the Guardian Council directly, bypassing the parliament, IRNA reported from Tehran.

The letter read out by member of Majlis Presiding Board Mohammad Naimipour said that the parliament is on top of national decision making system and therefore bypassing the parliament is in contradiction with the Constitution.

The MPs quoted a statement made by the late Imam Khomeini describing the "Parliament on top of all state affairs" and said that the very basic right of the parliament is being ignored by the Expediency Council by accepting the request of the Guardians Council to approve increased budget for the body.

Constitutionally, the Guardians Council should seek budget from the government and the latter forward the request to the parliament, but, it bypassed both the government and the parliament, the MPs said in their strongly worded letter.

The MPs complained that the sixth parliament is being dealt with illegally due to different interpretations of the Constitution and taking action in the name of the expediency of the system in a direct attack on both the Guardians Council (which is in charge of interpreting the Constitution) and the Expediency Council.

The letter said that the Expediency Council set a precedence with its illegal action in making decision about budget of the Guardians Council while the government and the parliament had provided the body with increased budget so far.

"Since both the president and the Majlis speaker walked out of the meeting of the Expediency Council that was approving increased budget for the Guardian Council, the decision lacks validity and legitimacy," the MPs said.

Karroubi says Majlis does not accept GC's budget rise

Majlis Speaker Mehdi Karroubi here on Sunday said the deputies never accept the 60-billion-rial rise in the budget of the Guardian Council (GC) as approved by the arbitrary Expediency Council (EC) on Saturday.

Karroubi told IRNA that the cabinet and the Management and Planning Organization (MPO) had agreed to formulate plans to remove the GC's anticipated budget deficit in the next Iranian calendar year of 1382 (starting March 21) via other resources.

He regretted, however, that the GC and the EC had undermined the authority of the Majlis as the Legislative Branch, particularly in the area of budget.

Karroubi stressed that the councils should have acted as complementary to the Majlis in lawmaking process of the country.

The press had earlier reported that the GC and the Majlis were at loggerheads over the Guardian Council's request for its budget to be increased to 160 billion rials (dlrs 20 million) with the deputies arguing that the huge budget was disproportionate compared to those of other state institutions.

The dispute followed the GC's argument that its budget for 1382 would not suffice for the seventh parliamentary elections in 1382.

However, the GC's request was not endorsed by the Majlis.

Therefore, the case was taken to the Expediency Council (EC) for final arbitration.

The EC accordingly in its Saturday meeting approved to raise the GC's budget to over 100 billion rials.

VP says GC budget rise by EC sets a wrong precedence

Vice-President for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Mohammad-Ali Abtahi said here Sunday that government opposes Expediency Council's decision to raise the Guardian Council's budget in the next Iranian calendar year of 1382 (to start on March 21), considering it as a "wrong precedence".

Abtahi told reporters that President Mohammad Khatami and his first deputy had already talked with Expediency Council (EC) Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on the issue so as to avert any tension and let it follow its due legal course.

EC, whose members are appointed by the Supreme Leader, decided on Saturday to raise the Guardians Council's budget to more than 100 billion rials from 40.4 billion rials, projected by the government and approved recently by parliament for the Iranian year of 1382 which ends on March 20, 2004.

"At a time when despite all the talks, the Expediency Council puts increase in the Guardian Council's (EC) budget on its agenda, it would be natural for Majlis Speaker (Mehdi Karroubi) and President (Mohammad Khatami) to leave the Council's meeting in protest," said Abtahi.

He cited the reason for the protest as possible financial mismanagement in case the decision become effective.

He added that government was to examine and pass the budget on condition that it is not changed by the EC.

President Khatami and Speaker Karroubi as well as MP Majid Ansari quit a meeting of the Expediency Council here Saturday over the arbitrative body's plans to boost the supervisory Guardians Council's budget.

The Guardians Council comprises six clerics, appointed by the Supreme Leader and six jurists, proposed by the Judiciary and voted by the parliament. It vets parliamentary bills to confirm whether they comply with the Islamic Sharia law as well as the Constitution.

Parliament Speaker: Expediency Council's decision against Constitution

Majlis Speaker Mehdi Karroubi said here on Sunday that the Expediency Council's decision to increase the budget of the Guardian Council is "against the Constitution and is an innovation."

The Expediency Council decided in its Saturday session to raise the Guardian Council's budget to more than rls 100 billion, up from rls 40.4 billion which the government had projected and the Majlis recently approved for the next Iranian year (starting on March 21, 2003).

Addressing an open session of Majlis, he said, "I had decided to remain silent regarding the regional situation and the US threats against Iraq, but I have to remind you of some points."

"We knew that any law approved by the Majlis should be ratified by the Guardian Council, but we also said that the Expediency Council had violated the law. We objected to the act and therefore we left the session."

Karroubi and a Majlis deputy in charge of the parliamentary budget commission Majid Ansari walked out of the Expediency Council session in protest at both the Guardian Council and the Expediency Council.

This is possible that an organization or institute has objection towards the low amount of its budget allocated to it by the government and may ask for an increased budget, he said, adding that the objection should be followed through legal procedures, Karroubi reiterated.

"We cannot finalize the budget bill now, the Expediency Council and the Guardian Council should themselves finalize the bill," he concluded.

Walkout from EC session improper, says daily

`Tehran Times' on Sunday criticized the walkout of high-ranking government officials from Saturday's Expediency Council (EC) session, saying it sent an improper message to Iranian voters who had already demonstrated their disenchantment with the current administration by staying away from polling booths a couple of weeks ago.

Majlis Speaker Mehdi Karroubi as well as another MP walked out from Saturday's EC session in protest at a decision of the arbitration body to increase the supervisory Guardian Council's budget by over 100 percent significantly raising it from the 40.4 billion which the government had projected in the budget recently approved by parliament for the next Iranian year (starting March 21, 2003).

The EC is composed of six clerics who are appointed by the Supreme Leader and six jurists proposed by the Judicary head and approved by parliament. It vets parliamentary bills to determine whether they comply with Islamic Sharia laws as well as the country's constitution.

If the concept of "rule of law" should reign supreme in this land, then it must apply to all spheres and not selectively to this latest issue, the daily, in its Opinion column, stressed.

According to the constitution, the EC has the last say in disputes invovling parliament and the Guardian Council, the daily pointed out, maintiaing that the rule of law requires all members of the EC to follow procedures set by law and not act according to their whims.

"Instead of walking out, the president, the parliament speaker and the chairman of the Majlis Budget Committee, Majid Ansari, should have stayed in the session and elaborated their viewpoints for other members of the council," the paper believes.

It said President Khatami, who is facing increasing difficulties in his presidency, should have done more to materialize his slogans.

"Khatami must show his resolve on more serious matters, and not on a small issue such as the EC budget issue," the daily suggested.

After all, the paper stressed, "even if the budget of the GC is approved, it amounts to only one-third of the amout of the contract signed by the Protuguese football superstar Luis Figo with the Spanish club Real Madrid."

"If Khatami wants to stand firm on his promises, there is much room to do so," the daily added.

The daily believes the issue involved in the walkout was so "insignificant" as to have called for such action on the part of the officials.

Khatami would do well to stay firmly resolved on finding remedies to the country's sick economy, it said.

Unemployment is becoming a divisive issue, the daily cried out, adding that the skyrocketing inflation and cost of commodities are making it extremely difficult for ordinary wage earners to make both ends meet.

In addition, it said the exorbitant prices of house have made it practically impossible for a middle class Iranian family to buy one.

An average government employee must work for at least 40 months and save his entire income without spending a single penny to be able to purchase a car and this means no money spent on food, shelter, clothing and the minimum amenities of life.

"These are the biting issues that Khatami must address and resolve," the opinion concluded.

... Payvand News - 3/16/03 ... --

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