A fiery speech delivered by Tehran MP Mahmoud Sadeghi on December 17 kicked off heated debate among pro-reform and conservative legislators in the Iranian Parliament.
Sadeghi criticized the Guardian Council (GC) for disqualifying competent candidates, insisted on the necessity of fighting corruption in the ruling echelons, and said the newly proposed budget bill was ambiguous.
Addressing his fellow legislators, he asked, “Are we the essence of the nation’s virtues? [No,] we are the essence of the Guardian Council’s virtues.”
Sadeghi was referring to a comment made by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1980 when he met the members of Iran’s first post-revolution parliament and described them as the “essence of nation’s virtues.”
According to Sadeghi, the members of the current parliament do not represent the Iranian people. “By disqualifying merited candidates, the Guardian Council has not allowed figures brave enough to fight corruption to have a seat in the parliament,” he said.
While attacking President Hassan Rouhani’s budget bill for a lack of transparency, Sadeghi said, “If we really want to combat corruption, we should start right here among ourselves. All ruling bodies of the country including the three powers of legislation, judiciary, and the executive need an iron will to fight corruption.”
According to state-run Iran Students News Agency (ISNA), the speech widely angered conservative MPs, including those affiliated with the ultraconservative Consistency Front of Iran (CFI).
Ali Adyani Rad, MP for the city of Qaem Shahr, said, “If the parliament is really the essence of the GC’s virtues, then, one should ask whether your presence is legitimate. Based on Islamic laws, do you even have the right to vote or make comments [on bills and motions]?”
Deputy Speaker Ali Motahari then stepped in. “It is not an insult, I believe, to call members of the parliament the essence of the GC’s virtues i.e. the essence of virtues of a number of virtuous, pious, and righteous people. Yet, it could be insulting in an implicit manner. And the protest is sustained.”
However, a CFI member, Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, responded, “If somebody says MPs are the essence of the GC’s virtues, it [explicitly] means that the members of the parliament are not elected by the people.”
Immediately after these comments, Motahari switched off Hosseini’s microphone, declaring an end to the debate.
Hosseini rushed to the speakers’ podium and demanded time to continue his comments. Motahari told him to sit down, and several reformist MPs stepped in to take Hosseini back to his seat while conservative legislators pushed them away.
“Are you the essence of the nation’s virtues?” reformist MP Mohammad Reza Tabesh asked Hosseini.
After minutes of chaotic exchanges, tensions died down and parliament returned to its normal business.
But Sadeghi’s outburst can be viewed as a direct challenge to conservatives, who control the crucial centers of power in Iran.