On the very day that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called the impeachment of his transportation minister Hamid Behbahani "illegal," the powerful State Expediency Council led by Hashemi Rafsanjani issued a response to Ahmadinejad's complaint to the Majlis, which also contained a threat, calling the government's action unlawful.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (R) with Hashemi Rafsanjani head of Expediency Council (file photo)
The Battle with Representatives Continues
On Saturday, after his transport minister Behbahani was removed from office by the Majlis, Ahmadinejad called the impeachment "illegal" and threatened that he would dissolve the ministry of transportation and distribute its activities among other government agencies, adding that he would soon expose the Majlis as well. "If what was said about the minister are faults, then those who have impeached the minister have done a hundred times worse," Ahmadinejad bellowed in anger. Ahmadinejad said he was particularly angry because the 10-day anniversary celebrations of the victory of the 2009 Islamic revolution is normally the time when gratitude is expressed for the government's work, where this year the celebration period began with the removal of one of his ministers.
Behbahani is the second administration minister whose impeachment hearings were held last week in the absence of the chief executive. Member of Majlis Ahmad Tavokoli said that Ahmadinejad had ordered his minister not to appear in the Majlis for the hearings. The Speaker of the Majlis called the absence of the summoned minister "a breach of the law." Ahmadinejad defended his action by saying that he had decided not to pursue the impeachment because his administration had decided to dissolve the ministry of transportation and spread its responsibilities among other government agencies. In response to a reporter's question as to why he or his minister did not participate in the Majlis hearing, Specifically, Ahmadinejad said that a number of deputies who had initially requested the hearings had subsequently withdrawn their request.
Earlier this month, Iran's Economic News Agency had quoted Nader Ghazipour to have denied reports that those who had requested the hearings had withdrawn their request. According to ECO news, the representative from Orumie in the Majlis said, "None of the 27 deputies who had signed the request for the impeachment hearings had withdrawn their request."
Some principlist media and those critical of the administration have reported that Behbahani had shown up for work at the transport ministry as a caretaker minister, something that is contrary to the express article 89 of the Iranian constitution which specifically says that an impeached cabinet minister cannot be a member of the cabinet. According to Mehr news agency Behbahani was the only minister absent at the Majlis impeachment hearings. He has not made any public comments about his impeachment.
Such disregard for Majlis requests and deliberations by the chief executive is not a new development in Iranian politics. Ahmadinejad had recently said that the Majlis is not at the head of all affairs, something that ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic order had specifically said in these very words and which is regularly repeated by politicians of all creed. What was new this time however was the threat that he issued to expose the work of the Majlis to the public.
While it is not clear what Ahmadinejad has in mind, the impact of this threat was immediate and wide. Rasta Mohammad Hossein Farhangi, a member of the Majlis leadership responded by saying, "The president lost his minister because of this very attitude. It is the Majlis that can pass a judgment on this, which it did by removing the minister from office."
But another deputy Ali Abbaspour the head of the education and research committee sounded more optimistic and called on the president to "change his way in expressing his differences in the media." Speaking to Mehr news agency, Abbaspour said, "Neither the government nor the Majlis were in a position to attack the State Expediency Council or issue warnings to it. Many acts of the government have no legal basis and some Majlis laws are completely disregarded." He also spoke of the dissatisfaction of the Majlis deputies of the government's behavior and actions adding, "Differences between the government and the Majlis are not new. If the president wants to go to the media to talk about the Majlis and other branches of government, then he better go to the state radio and television network so that his accusations can be addressed by other branches."
Response by the State Expediency Council
But what has remained on top of the political talk mill is the response by the State Expediency Council to Ahmadinejad's complaint letter that he had sent 13 days earlier to the Majlis. Ahmadinejad is himself a member of the Expediency Council but has opted not to participate in its meetings for months because of his differences with the Council's chairman Hashemi Rafsanjani. The head of the Motalefe party Asqar Owladi had quoted Ahmadinejad earlier that he was not attending the meetings because his views expressed in the Council were not implemented.
The letter of the Expediency Council had said that if Ahmadinejad had a problem with the legal process, he had to take measures to modify the constitution through the stipulated provisions.
On January 24, 2011 Ahmadinejad had written a public letter to the Majlis accusing the heads of the legislature, the judiciary and the Expediency Council of "striving to smudge the responsibilities of the executive branch" and changing the law. This letter came after a dispute erupted between the Majlis and the administration over the appointment of a new governor for the Central Bank of Iran, which was referred to the Expediency Council for resolution.
The letter of the Expediency Council said that "it was unprecedented for an official at that level ... to attack an institution in the constitution and accuse its members who have been selected by the supreme leader of striving to be destructive in the affairs of the administration."
A large part of the letter of the Council traces the history of the body and defends its record. It then writes that complaints about its resolutions are contrary to the constitution and equate it to be a protest against the supreme leader which it concludes "is not acceptable from anyone." It also points out that the decisions of the body have a higher legal status and standing than decisions of other constitutional bodies and quotes that Guardians Council to say that no body has the right to annul or disregard the decisions of the Council.
Warning by the Council
The letter ends with a warning to Ahmadinejad. "If the [the president] does not stop the non implementation of legal decisions of institutions and insists on implementing his own personal interpretations, not only will the problem not be resolved, but this can be a source of weakness for the entire regime and the incitement of the foreign enemies of the Islamic republic." This warning take a more threatening tone when it concludes that till now the Council has been lenient towards the new government in implementing its duties," implying it may end this practice.
Following the publication of the Council's letter, Fars news agency which is closely tied to the administration and the military establishment in the country published two separate news reports in response. It wrote that a source close to the Expediency Council had said that response to the remarks of the president that were published in the media had been issued by the public relations office of the Council and that the secretary of the Council was not aware of it. It should be noted that Tabnak website which is run by Mohsen Rezai, the secretary of the Council has not posted any news in this regard. The second news raised the question that since the statement of the public relations office of the Council had written that Mr. Rafsanjani was opposed to providing a response by the Council to Ahmadinejad's letter, why was this position not published in the Council's official site. Fars wrote that the response of the Council was posed on Hashemi Rafsanjani's website rather than the Council's official website, and therefore called it "lacking any value and credibility."
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