An outspoken member of Iran’s parliament has criticized President Hassan Rouhani for not applying his constitutional powers to advance the policies of his elected office.
Ali Motahari, Tehran's representative to Majlis (parliament) says, "President Hassan Rouhani has been reluctant to apply some of his constitutional powers, while [his predecessor, hardline] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had more audacity in using his lawful authority."
As Iran’s social and economic problems have worsened, hardliners around Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have become more emboldened, exerting pressure and influence in matters that should be the purview of the president.
Speaking to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC)-run Fars news agency on Friday, August 9, Ali Motahari, who was deputy speaker of parliament until recently also asserted that using the constitutional powers vested in the President depends on the personality of whoever holds the office.
"Some presidents, including Rouhani, have reservations in implementing a number of their lawful powers, while others, like Ahmadinejad, might even go further than the authority entrusted to them," the deputy speaker of the parliament maintained.
Lambasting Rouhani for his reservations, Motahari has noted that Rouhani allows irresponsible individuals and entities to interfere (in the state and governmental affairs).
In recent days, a similar criticism was heard from former president Mohammad Khatami, who criticized Rouhani for not using his constitutional right to send warning notes to other branches of government for major legal violations.
According to Motahari, Rouhani allows unrelated individuals and entities to have a say in his choice of ministers and he concedes economic decision-making powers to others.
As chairman of the Supreme National Security Council Rouhani has repeatedly caved to various pressures, Motahari maintained.
Rouhani has rarely resisted outside interference into executive affairs, Motahari insisted, adding that he could have resisted, explicitly reminding meddlers to stay away from governmental issues.
Motahari's remarks point to Article 113 of the country's Constitution that stipulates, "After the office of Leadership, the President is the highest official in the country. His is the responsibility for implementing the Constitution and acting as the head of the executive, except in matters directly concerning (the office of) the Leadership."
As Khamenei consolidated his power in 1990s, the office of the president gradually lost its authority, to the extent that ex-president Mohammad Khatami lamented in 1998 that the President in Iran serves as the butler of the Supreme Leader.
However, Khatami tried later to take back his controversial comment but admitted that if he had sought for more presidential powers, the Guardian Council would have rejected it.
The Guardian Council (GC) with its twelve members either directly or indirectly appointed by the Supreme Leader, is a powerful constitutional review body in charge of approving all legislation passed by the Majles. In addition, the council supervises elections, and approves all candidates standing for election, even for the presidency.
Moreover, the GC is the only body in the country authorized to "interpret" the Constitution.
Referring to Article 113 of the Islamic Republic's Constitution, Motahari has regretfully noted, "Even in cases where the President has the power to caution the heads of the judiciary, and parliament, Rouhani has preferred to stay silent. Whereas he is expected to raise the alarms whenever he spots a violation of the Constitution."
This has led to the formation of the Supreme Council of Economic Coordination attended by the heads of executive, judiciary, and legislative branches.
Several conservative news outlets have insisted that the establishment of the council reflects the inefficiency of President Rouhani's Administration.
Nonetheless, Motahari believes that the council violates the Islamic Republic's Constitution, and Rouhani should have resisted it.