Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Iranian MP: Majlis is the Last to Learn of Country’s Issues

Soheyl Asefi, Rooz Online:
In an exclusive interview with Rooz Online, Majlis (Iran's Parliament) representative from Tabriz Akbar Alami complained of restrictions that have been placed on MPs and said that nothing except a posh building façade remains of the Majlis (Iran's Parliament). In his words,The system is the victim of the shadow government that stands behind the president. Read on for the interview. READ MORE

Rooz Online ®: You have expressed serious criticism over the workings of the current Majlis. How much of this is related to the work of the current cabinet?
Akbar Alami (AA): After having been apparently discovered after 27 years since the revolution, Mr. Ahmadinejad is thirsty for being in the headlines and making news. From his letters to the heads of some states and his invitation for a debate with George Bush to his slogans about impractical plans and more importantly the promises that he makes on his provincial trips which are based on populist notions, are all in the same light. The national radio and television network has departed from its past policies and practices and is now fully supporting and covering the president’s ideas and even refrains from airing objections that come from insiders. So everything is at play to present Mr. Ahmadinejad as the ideal person, and unfortunately he seems to have fallen for all of this. He now believes he is the regime.

R: As a member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee of the Majlis (Iran's Parliament), how independent is the committee?
AA: On foreign and domestic policies, Mr. Ahmadinejad and his government continuously circumvent the Majlis. On the nuclear issue, the Majlis (Iran's Parliament) is the last place to hear of the developments on the issue. On his trips to provinces, he makes empty promises, and in fact by insiting public’s unrealistic expectations he puts the Majlis in a fait accompli situation, while pretending that everything has been taken care of because of his miracles. He presents a picture as if all the problems belong to the previous administrations and even the Majlis. This is despite the fact that even though we have had an unprecedented income and revenue over the past year, not only have we not made any fundamental progress in economics, social or cultural issues, we have even regressed to dangerous levels in some cases, especially on economic issues. And since the national radio and television network, along with the major newspapers and Friday prayer pulpits are all helping Mr. Ahmadinejad, leaving absolutely no forum for critics, we now have a dangerous situation where the regime has been sacrificed for the decisions of one person alone, who is incidentally supported by a shadow unofficial and secretive government.

R: How what is the situation with the Majlis (Iran's Parliament) today?
AA: We are now witnessing the neutralization of an institution that should act as the restrainer on the government and appointed officials within the constitution, and one that is charged with preventing arbitrary decisions and actions. According to the constitution, the Majlis is envisioned to act as the symbol of democracy and national will that sits atop the overall management of the country which has the initiative in all spheres. But it appears that those who desired the closure of the Majlis have succeeded in turning the institution into a mere façade in Baharestan square in Tehran.

R: How are things at the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee?
AA: This committee has been turned into a useless body which appears to be run by forces outside the Majlis as it plays absolutely no role in its mandate. If does have any role, it is insignificant. The leadership of the Majlis is tasked to ask the committees to present monthly reports of its activities to the Parliament. But there have been no reports during the last 2 years. Some MPs have reminded the leadership of its duties and thus make the Majlis an active body. But it appears that the leadership aims at keeping the public in the dark about what is going on in the Majlis. It has announced, contrary to house rules, that only issues that relate to house rules may be discussed and raised in the legislative body. This means that MPs are not allowed to raise and discuss issues of national importance, and cannot question or criticize violations that occur even regarding the house rules. In this fashion, the leadership of the Majlis has denied the basic right of representatives in making the public aware of the violations that take place in the house. Representatives in the Majlis now act like Charlie Chaplin did in the film New Age and act like programmed robots without any initiative and will of their own, merely accepting or rejecting proposals and bills, without any rights to intervene in national issues. I would not be surprised if our advice would soon to be construed as a criminal act, sending us to prison! Quarantining the Majlis and banning access to its leadership should be seen in this light. To achieve their goals, these gentlemen have been presenting the rightful demands and criticism of certain active MPs as irrational calls. They have called some MPs as rogues.

R: Objections to MP criticism have been on the rise.
AA: That is correct. You may have noticed that they have mobilized some of their forces in the Majlis who disrupt the session whenever an MP raises some criticism that they do not like or which crosses the red lines that they have themselves identified. We expect that media that is in line with the criticism and objections that we raise to come to our aid and publish the issues that are of national concern, in an effort prevent the Majlis from turning into a place where voices are silenced.

R: How are the MPs grouped in the Majlis?
AA: So long as the developments in the country or in the Majlis are not transparent, and so long as parties that have roots in the public are not nationally organized, we shall continue to witness divisions outside and inside the Parliament. This situation is not limited to this Majlis. In the previous Majlis too we had a similar situation. The current groups depend on specific individuals and do not enjoy a theoretic or philosophic foundation or ideology. This is the reason why they face their current problems, causing their secretive nature. There are several factions in the current Majlis (Iran's Parliament). There is the so called ‘majority’ faction and there is one known as the ‘minority’. Each group has more subdivisions. The majority does not enjoy any unity in thought or view even among its own members. These issues exist because of the absence of any plans or views. The groupings have been formed simply because of personal affiliations and connections. If you look at the performance and views of some of them you will see that while they formally belong to one faction, they are in fact closer to the views and behavior of the other. This has made things difficult for honest independent MPs.

R: Thank you