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Reformist MP Backs Down From Criticism Of The Guardian Council

Mahmoud Sadeghi, a reformist member of parliament representing Tehran.

In an apparent U-turn, pro-reform Tehran MP Mahmoud Sadeghi announced on December 20 that he believes in the Guardian Council’s right to confirm or reject people nominated for a seat in the parliament.

Earlier on December 17, in a speech delivered in a parliamentary session, Sadeghi had sparked a heated debate among his fellow pro-reform and conservative legislators by criticizing the Guardian Council (GC) for disqualifying competent candidates.

He had insisted on the necessity of fighting corruption in the ruling echelons and while criticizing the ambiguity in the government’s budget, he had also expressed doubt whether a parliament, which went through the GC filter really presented the people.

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 with the members of Iran’s first post-revolution parliament and described them as the “essence of the nation’s virtues.”

The comments triggered tensions in the parliament. Sadeghi’s conservative opponents argued that if he would not accept the role of the GC, he should not be allowed to keep his post.

Sadeghi tried his best to take back his previous derisive comments about the GC.

“Based on Article 99 of the Iranian Constitution, the Guardian Council is responsible for supervising the elections of the Leadership Council of Experts, the president of the republic, the Islamic Consultative Assembly (parliament), and referrals to the public vote and referenda,” he said. “There is a solid logic behind this article and as I have repeatedly said, I believe in the GC’s right to qualify or reject candidates.”

Sadeghi, however, criticized recent limitations imposed on the authority of the parliament, including restrictions on its right to investigate matters related to the GC and the Assembly of Experts.

“The point is reducing parliament’s realm of authority. We are not allowed to investigate any case related to the GC or Assembly of Experts. These limitations have reduced the level of the parliament’s authority and its output,” Iran Students News Agency (ISNA) quoted Sadeghi as saying.

Sadeghi’s new comments were widely interpreted as an attempt to downplay his fiery speech from a few days before.

Lambasting the GC, he had noted, “By disqualifying merited candidates, the Guardian Council has not allowed figures brave enough to fight corruption to have a seat in the parliament.”

Furthermore, he had maintained that Iran has hopelessly fallen into a “corruption trap” while there is no will for combatting corruption.

“Why is the parliament devoid of the serious will necessary for fighting corruption? Why are we cooperating with corrupt figures, and why are we afraid to publicly name those who have astronomical overdue debts [to the banks]?” he said.