Thursday , 5 August 2021

Reformists face defeat in competition over Iranian speakership

Al-Monitor – On May 30, in an internal election over the speakership of Iran’s parliament, moderate Ali Larijani defeated the leader of the main Reformist parliamentary faction, becoming the speaker for the 11th time in a row — a record in the history of Islamic Republic.

This was the second time that Mohammad Reza Aref, who is the chairman of the Reformists’ Hope faction in parliament, entered the competition and refused to reach a consensus with moderates.

Iran’s parliament is broadly made up of three main camps: independents, or moderates; the Hope faction, or Reformists; and Followers of the Leader, or hard-liners.

The vote was held twice, because, based on internal law of parliament, if no one gains the absolute majority of votes, the voting goes to a second round. During the first round, Aref managed to obtain more votes than Larijani, but it wasn’t an absolute majority. In the next round, hard-liner Hamid Reza Haji-Babai, who had won 54 votes, withdrew from the competition in favor of Larijani.

The total number of parliament members is 290. Larijani was elected to be parliament speaker once again by earning 147 votes.

In reaction to the results and the reason behind Aref’s victory in the first round of the internal speakership election, moderate parliament member Gholam-Ali Imanabadi argued that hard-liners’ anger with Larijani led them to vote for Aref.

“A famous hard-line parliament member told [me] ‘I prefer Aref to Larijani.’ … A number of the parliament members of Followers of the Leader faction voted for Aref. … However, this doesn’t mean that they had formed a coalition; it is due to them being upset with Larijani,” said Imanabadi May 30.

Hard-liners are critical of Larijani as he played a significant role in pushing approval of the 2015 nuclear deal through parliament. He has been also slammed by ultra-conservatives for throwing his weight behind Rouhani in the 2017 presidential election and supporting him in different crises.

Meanwhile, Masoud Pezeshkian and Ali Motahari, who are both members of the Hope faction, were re-elected as deputies of the speaker.

Motahari is known in Iran as an outspoken parliament member who has repeatedly slammed the hard-liners and judiciary. He has also called for the release of the leaders of the Green Movement who remain under house arrest despite pledges of their release. Motahari’s candid positions have turned him into one of the usual targets of hard-liners. During the internal election of parliament, hard-liners were also seeking to prevent Mohtahari’s re-election.

During the past two years, Reformists have become suspicious of Reformist-backed President Hassan Rouhani’s administration turn toward moderate conservatives. Reformist outlets claimed in 2017 that Rouhani’s chief of staff had lobbied in favor of Larijani’s speakership. The same rumors have now resurfaced, leading Rouhani’s parliamentary deputy to deny it. “The government has had no intervention in this field,” said Hossein-Ali Amiri May 30, referring to Larijani’s re-election.