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News | Ahmadinejad Loses Crucial Vote in This Parliament, Backing in Next


07 May 2012 01:35Comments

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BallotBoxDark.jpg1:35 a.m. IRDT, 18 Ordibihesht/May 7 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's plans to expand the subsidy reform program he has championed were dealt a severe blow by a parliamentary council, even as final returns from Friday's legislative runoff elections suggest that he will face even greater opposition in the Ninth Majles that will be seated toward the end of the month.

In 2010, the legislature approved the reduction and elimination of subsidies on household goods and energy over a five-year period. That December, the Ahmadinejad administration implemented an initial phase of subsidy cuts far more sweeping than anticipated in the authorizing legislation. Drastic price increases in everyday purchases swiftly followed: the cost of household gas has risen by 500 percent, the price of gasoline at the pump has tripled, and the expense of grocery items has far outpaced the official annualized inflation rate of 21.5 percent recently announced by the central state bank. In the 16-plus months since that first phase of subsidy cuts, there have been repeated complaints from various Majles deputies that the administration's approach to implementing economic reform has been illegal. Now, the semiofficial Tehran Times reports,

The Majlis Integration Committee on Saturday rejected the administration's proposal to increase revenues from subsidy cuts, a move which could effectively block the implementation of the second stage of the subsidy reform plan in the current Iranian calendar year.

However, the committee's decision must be endorsed by a majority of the parliament.

The administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presented the draft of the national budget bill for Iranian calendar year 1391 (started March 20) to the Majlis on February 1, in which it was proposed that the revenues from subsidy elimination savings would be increased from about $44 billion to $110 billion. [...]

Reportedly, last week the administration decided to suddenly free up energy prices to complete the implementation of the subsidy reform plan this year.

For the current calendar year, the Integration Commission authorized the government to recoup 560 trillion rials from subsidy cuts -- $44 billion at the official exchange rate, the same amount as last year. According to Reuters,

The parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani -- a fierce critic of the president -- said the government was now planning to triple petrol prices [again] and to double the cost of natural gas, Mehr news reported on Friday.

Last month, the government said it would boost the monthly cash payments it gives to its poorest citizens to offset the rising prices by more than 50 percent to 730,000 Rials (around 60 U.S. dollars). [...]

The International Monetary Fund has commended the Iranian government for the policy which it said had led to a reduction in fuel consumption and inflationary pressure.

WomenRunoffVoting.jpgAhmadinejad, who has often clashed with the legislature since he retained office in a 2009 election widely believed to have been rigged, is likely to face even greater parliamentary challenges during his last year in office (Iranian presidents are constitutionally restricted to two terms). As described by Ali Akbar Dareini of the Associated Press,
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's support in Iran's parliament crumbled as final results released Saturday showed conservative rivals consolidating their hold on the legislative body in a runoff vote. [...]

The result is also a new humiliation for Ahmadinejad, whose political decline started last year with his bold but failed challenge of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei over the choice of intelligence chief. [...]

Ahmadinejad's opponents had already won an outright majority in the 290-member legislature in the first round of voting in March. Of 65 seats up for grabs in Friday's runoff election, Ahmadinejad's opponents won 41 while the president's supporters got only 13 seats. Independents won 11, according to final results reported Saturday by state media. [...]

The president's supporters had their best showing in the capital Tehran [where 25 seats were contested in the runoff]. Ahmadinejad's conservatives critics won 16 seats while his supporters took nine.

The Iranian Students News Agency reported that nine female candidates were elected to parliament; there are eight female legislators in the outgoing Majles. Drawing on the Islamic Republic's state-aligned media, AFP provides more details:

The run-off vote held on Friday did not change the political direction of the conservative chamber that pledges fealty to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, with the United Conservatives Front and the Front of Islamic Revolution's Endurance winning a combined 44 seats, Fars news agency said.

The United Front, which is critical of Ahmadinejad, will have a total of 65 seats in the new parliament while the Endurance has emerged with a total of 25.

Another 61 lawmakers have simultaneously been endorsed by both groups while other conservative factions managed to win 15 seats.

Reformist candidates, who had mainly boycotted the elections, lost most of their 60 seats in the assembly. They now will only field 21 representatives, including two won on Friday, in the new assembly.

The legislature will also welcome 98 MPs who ran on "independent" tickets, many of whom are unknown but at least a dozen [of whom] identify themselves as conservative. And five deputies are from the recognised minority Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian faiths.

The United Conservatives Front, the dominant group of conservatives -- or "principlists," as they are now largely self-identified -- is Jebheh Mottahed-e Osoolgarayan in Farsi, more accurately translated as the United Front of Principlists. The loosely organized party that AFP refers to as the Front of Islamic Revolution's Endurance is Jebheh Paaydaari-e Enghlelab-e Eslami, which is generally though far from uniformly supportive of the president. Tehran Bureau's preferred translation for Jebheh Paaydaari is Stability Front, the Tehran Times favors Resistance Front, while the Islamic Republic's state-run Press TV renders it Perseverance Front. Along with the United Front of Principlists, the two other main principlist groups -- Jebheh Eistaadegi Enghelab-e Eslami (Resistance Front of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran Bureau's rendering; AFP similarly translates "eistaadegi" as "resistance") and Jebheh Montaghedan-e Dolat (Government Critics Front, also known as Jebheh Sedaa-ye Mellat, or Voice of the Nation) -- are roundly opposed to Ahmadinejad. For more on these groups and how to unravel the distinctions between them (a task obviously complicated by the extent to which their candidates' lists overlap), see this piece by frequent Tehran Bureau columnist Muhammad Sahimi.

There are few well-known figures among the self-identified "reformists" who will sit in the new parliament. One of those few is Soheila Jelodarzadeh, recognized for her advocacy of women's and workers' rights. Before the initial round of voting in early March, she noted the absence of the leading reformist groups from the campaign: "Those parties which normally strongly support women's presence in political and social fields aren't competing this time."


IrajQaderi.jpgTehran Bureau contributor Ali Chenar files the following item: After a few days of confused reporting, Iranian media outlets announced that pioneering film director and actor Iraj Qaderi has passed away at the age of 76. His cinematic career spanned five decades. Having suffered from lung cancer for the past four years, he was buried without media coverage in a simple family ceremony in Karaj, 30 miles west of Tehran.

Qaderi's name is a familiar one to fans of Iranian film. Born in 1935, he started acting in prerevolutionary Iran. He was one of the few important figures to have participated virtually throughout the development of the country's cinema from a domestic entertainment industry to a global player. He first acted onscreen in 1955 in The Crossroad of Events, directed by Samuel Khachikian. He subsequently acted in more than 70 movies. In 1962, he founded Panorama Cinematographic Company with Mousa Afshar and directed his first movie three years. He continued to direct and act following the Revolution, with celebrated films such as Taraj (The Loot), Barzakhiha, and Dada. He was banned from Iranian cinema in 1984 and did return until 1994.

His first movie after his return was based on a real-life crime. I Want to Survive was the story of a woman accused of murdering her stepson, who had committed suicide. Qaderi went on to direct ten more movies. The last, Network, in which he acted as well, awaits distribution approval from the authorities. His movies often did well at the box office and were popular with fans. However, he was not a favorite of movie critics who regarded his work as old-fashioned. His stories often had happy endings centered around a romantic connection with macho characters.

The news of his death went viral online yesterday. Initially it was denied and Khabar Online reported that he was in critical condition. His family eventually acknowledged his death. They do not plan to hold a public memorial.

Copyright © 2012 Tehran Bureau

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