Iranian Election Changes Gutted
It is standard procedure in the Majles for legislators to vote on a multipart bill in its entirety and only subsequently to debate and vote on its individual articles. But what occurred over the past week concerning legislation that would have imposed a sweeping new set of qualifications for potential presidential candidates was anything but standard. The new election law, which passed by a wide margin in its overall form, was effectively gutted when its crucial article was found by the same legislature to be unconstitutional by a far wider margin...
(The changes) were opposed both by defenders of the Guardian Council, who saw them as undermining its vetting authority, and pro-democracy commentators, who saw them as further limiting Iranians' already constricted choice in possible leaders. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke out vehemently against the legislation; it is widely assumed that he is maneuvering to have a member of his inner circle succeed him in next June's presidential election and that he saw the law as a means of eliminating any chance that his favored candidate would be approved. And those who hope to see 78-year-old former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani make another run for the office surely noted that the maximum age requirement would have barred that possibility.
Just days later, when the Majles took up debate on the legislation's individual articles, deputy Ali Reza Salimi moved that Article 7, encompassing all of the controversial new eligibility requirements, violated the Constitution. Speaker Ali Larijani (pictured above), who had personally pitched the virtues of the legislation to the Guardian Council -- half of whose members were chosen by his brother, judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani -- observed that the council also maintained that it was unconstitutional and thus seconded Salimi's objection. With Larijani, the parliament's top officer and the legislation's most prominent advocate, having turned against it, the Majles rejected Article 7 as unconstitutional by a vote of 162 to 19.