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Iran Parliament Bans MPs' Re-Election Beyond Three Consecutive Terms

IRAN -- Iranian President Hassan Rohani (Left) speaks at parliament in the capital Tehran on December 25, 2018 as he presents his government's 2019-2020 budget, with a notice below his podium providing Christmas greetings to Christians.

The Iranian Parliament on March 3 voted to prevent members from being reelected for fourth consecutive terms in a bid "to rejuvenate the parliament, to make it agile and facilitate the rotation of political elites." However, the ratification has yet to be approved by the Guardian Council.

If it receives final approval, the new legislation would limit the tenure of members of parliament to three consecutive terms and require them to wait four years before being eligible to run for a fourth term.

The legislation will deprive some 34 incumbent MPs, including parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, from pursuing seats in the next election in 2020.

The Iranian Constitution limits presidents to two consecutive terms in office, but it makes no mention of how many times people can be elected to the parliament.

Almost everyone in positions of power in Iran's political establishment has been involved in the government for the past 40 years, and many are of an advanced age. Iranians still remember a particular politician who served as an MP for several terms and until recently was a member of the Tehran city council who was caught by photographers dozing off in official meetings. Photos of sleeping politicians at the Assembly of Experts are frequently featured by the media.

Opposition to the legislation has already started. Several MPs, particularly those affiliated with the ultraconservative Paydari (Steadfastness) party, signed a letter to the speaker saying, "It might deprive wise but otherwise aging individuals from running for the parliament." They also called on the Guardian Council to reject the legislation.

Ironically, Isfahan MP Hassan Kamran, who has served six terms over 24 years as MP at the parliament, has supported limiting the number of re-elections.

Nevertheless, former reformist MP Rassoul Montajabnia told reporters, "I suspect there is a political agenda behind this move to deprive a number of influential MPs from getting elected once again." He also predicted the new legislation will be rejected by the Guardian Council.

The idea of limiting the number of times MPs can be reelected was put forward three times before, in 2003, 2014, and 2018, but every time it faced strong opposition.

In an article in the administration-owned daily Iran, prominent lawyer Bahman Keshavarz pointed out that the new legislation violates Article 62 of the Iranian Constitutional Law, which does not impose any limitation on reelection.

Former reformist MP Mohamad Reza Kahabbaz argued in a commentary in the same paper that "the reason to limit the re-election of presidents is to prevent dictatorship and corruption, but an MP has no money or executive power at his or her disposal. On the contrary, experience could add value to an MP's performance."

MP Ezzatollah Yousefian Molla argued that the new legislation limits voters' choices, and lawyer Hossein Naqqashi wrote that MPs’ responsibilities include legislation and supervision and it is unlikely that a prolonged presence in the parliament would adversely affect either of those functions.

Meanwhile, the proposed legislation included calls for parliamentary elections at the provincial level and stipulated that apart from individual candidates, political parties can publish and promote lists of their own candidates. While there have been many debates on the issue of re-election, MPs were not observed reacting or discussing the implications of other parts of the legislation.