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Iran: Debate heats up over new MP qualifications bill


TEHRAN, Dec. 25 (Mehr News Agency) -- MP Bijan Shahbazkhani on Monday praised a bill approved by the Majlis that requires candidates in parliamentary elections to possess a master's degree, saying, "This move will pave the way for new appropriate laws for presidential elections."

On Sunday, the Majlis approved a bill stating that only candidates who have a master's degree and five years of administrative experience can run in parliamentary elections. The bill is yet to be endorsed by the Guardian Council.

MPs believe that this legislation will facilitate the passage of new laws to improve the criteria for electing the president and the members of the cabinet, Shahbazkhani told the Mehr News Agency.

There are rich people who seek to convince the people to vote for them through campaign promises, but such measures will be prevented by the new law, he added.

He expressed hope that the move would strengthen the parliament and the administration.

The Mehr News Agency also sought the views of another MP and several political activists on Monday.

Mohammad Atrianfar of the Servants of Construction Party said, "The country's legislature should be run by people who are not lower than the average people in society."

He described the ratification of the bill as a reform meant to boost the scholastic and managerial qualifications of MPs.

"A strong parliament will appoint a strong administration," he added.

However, MP Mohammad Khoshchehreh called the bill a "wrong decision", saying, "We are endorsing the selling of degrees through this bill."

It will also restrict people's choices because in many parts of the country higher education is limited and many people who have good moral qualifications and experiences will be excluded, he added.

Mohammad Abtahi of the Association of Combatant Clerics said that the bill violates the Constitution, which calls for fair and equal criteria for every citizen.

The sitting MPs' decision to exempt themselves from the approved criteria is a move which will deal a heavy blow to democracy in the country, Abtahi added.

Servants of Construction Party spokesman Hossein Mara'shi said the people's options should not be limited.

"The people themselves know very well who to choose," he stated, adding that the Majlis should promote free elections not limited elections.

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