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Iran's Hardliner Watchdog Aims To Expand Power Over Parliament

Ahmad Jannati (C) the 93-year-old Secretary of the Guardian Council. July 20,2020

The Secretary of The Islamic Republic's hardliner-dominated Guardian Council (GC), ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, has called for expanding the already powerful body's authority.

Jannati says the GC should be involved in drafting laws from the outset and have the authority to remove "wrong-doing" lawmakers from Majles (Iranian parliament).

Speaking to the members of the newly-elected parliament's presidium on Monday, July 20, the ultraconservative cleric repeatedly emphasized the "importance of oversight," insisting, "Although the GC's oversight on the members of Majles is permanent, it should also have the power to dismiss the MPs."

The Guardian Council is a body empowered to vet legislation, voting procedures, and qualify or dismiss candidates running for president or parliament.

The twelve-member Council comprises jurists and acts in many ways as an upper legislative house. Half its members are specialists in Twelver- Shiite Islamic canon law directly appointed by the country's Supreme Leader, and the other half are civil legal experts nominated by the Supreme Judicial Council and endorsed by the Majles.

"Due to legal problems, the GC cannot remove MPs who deviate from their duties or involve in corruption," the 93-year-old mid-ranking cleric regretfully noted.

The ultraconservative ayatollah explicitly called on the fundamentalist-dominated parliament to pave the way for the GC to expand its power beyond what the Islamic Republic Constitution stipulates.

However, since 1991, the GC has consistently gained more power in the clergy-dominated Iran.

In an unprecedented move in 2016 parliamentary elections, the GC voided the election of a female candidate to parliament without a concrete explanation but multiple sources said she was disqualified because of an alleged photo showing her without hijab.

Over the years, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has helped empower institutions dominated by conservatives in a self-perpetuating mechanism by which conservatives help other conservatives to gain more power and gradually eliminate the more pragmatic members of the establishment who are known as reformists.

During the meeting on Monday, Jannati also called for "experts" from the Guardian Council's "research center" to take part in drafting laws.

Lambasting previous parliaments for passing "faulty and ambiguous laws", later rejected by the GC, Jannati called for amending the procedure in a way that the GC's "research center" can participate from the outset, "assisting" lawmakers.

Meanwhile, the elderly cleric implicitly warned the newly-elected MPs, advising them to have "self-discipline."

According to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, the task of "legislating" or codifying laws is parliament’s responsibility.

However, in recent years, the country's Khamenei has delegated some responsibility to other bodies, including the High Supervisory Board of the Expediency Council.

International institutions consider the elections in the Islamic Republic to be "unfree", "non-transparent" and "unfair", including the widespread disqualification before the polls and the intervention of extra-legal institutions in the process.