Wednesday, Sep 25, 2002
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By Atul Aneja
One of the new bills intends to give Iran's elected President the authority to remove officials in the Judiciary and Parliament, if they, in his judgment, violate the constitution or exercise their powers arbitrarily. The move is highly significant as the judiciary that has been strongly influenced by the religious hardliners and has taken decisions that have inhibited the attempt of the moderates to provide more intellectual freedom, analysts say.
" The spirit of this bill is that if Mr. Khatami realises that the constitution has been violated, he can put a stop to it," said the Vice-President, Mohammad Ali Abtahi, after presenting the bill to the Assembly on the President's behalf. The second bill aims to curtail the power of the conservative-dominated Guardian Council's power to prune election candidates. This legislation could pave the way for the emergence of more radical reformists in Parliament after next year's elections.
By presenting these bills, Mr. Khatami has challenged Iran's 12-merber Guardian Council that is made up of conservatives. The Guardian Council, so far, has exercised the right to reject laws passed by Parliament, if, in its judgment they violate the country's Islamic law or constitution.
Analysts point out that the Guardian Council may wish to avoid a showdown with Mr. Khatami by accepting the first bill, but is unlikely to approve the second legislation that challenges them directly. The moderate camp in Iran, however, is of the view that the two bills cannot be separated. If a deadlock between Parliament and the Guardian Council on the bills emerges, they would be passed to the conservative-dominated Expediency Council, often the interface between the Government and the Guardian's. But in case the logjam persists, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, may have to intervene. As the successor of Ayatollah Khomeini, who steered Iran's Islamic revolution in 1979, Ayatollah Khameini has the final say on matters of state.
Frustrated by the repeated moves by conservatives to impede his reforms for nearly five years, Mr. Khatami does not appear to be in a mood for a compromise. According to Mr. Abtahi, Mr. Khatami, "has reached the conclusion that he cannot carry out his duties if these bills fail to get approval." Under these circumstances, Mr. Khatami would have two choices before him in case the conservatives, who also exercise control over the armed forces, do not budge.
Analysts say that Mr. Khatami may seek a referendum on his bills, or in case this move fails, he could consider resignation. Reformists in Iran, however, are hoping that Ayatollah Khameini may intervene on Mr. Khatami's side and save what could transform from a constitutional crisis to a serious social crisis.
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