NCRI - A number of Iranian regime MPs are to write a letter to regime leader Ali Khamenei, asking him to issue a ‘constitution revision order’ so the current presidential system could be turned into a parliamentary one.
The announcement was made by Ezatollah Yousefian-Molla, head of parliament’s commission on drafting internal regulations, who claimed that the “goal is to resolve the issue of lack of cooperation between the parliament and government.” (State-run Khane-Mellat website, October 2, 2017)
Meanwhile, a member of parliament’s Judicial Committee ‘Rahimi Jahanabadi’, who has also signed the letter, has given more detailed description in this regard, claiming that with a parliamentary system in place of a presidential one, part of ‘the tension resulting from power division at the top of executive branch’ will be resolved. Rahimi then added “the current presidential system has led to a ‘semi-closed state’, which has crippled the country in terms of decision-making.” (State-run Khane-Mellat website, October 2, 2017)
So, it becomes clear that according to its promoters, the plan intends to put an end to ‘the tension caused by division of power at the top of the regime, or the duality in power structure that has crippled the country in terms of decision-making.’
To answer the question whether the duality of power and rift at the top of the regime is born out of a presidential system and whether changing this system to a parliamentary one could resolve the contradictions or not, it would be necessary to take a look at the history of the issue under the regime.
From the beginning of its coming to power, regime leader Khomeini was at the helm, while the executive branch included both a president and a prime minister. That could in some ways be considered as a parliamentary system in which prime minister is responsible for executive affairs while presidency is more of a ceremonial position.
After Khomeini’s death, Khamenei succeeded him as regime’s leader. In the meantime, Rafsanjani, the one who promoted Khamenei to his new position, made modifications to the constitution to adapt it with the then balance of power, removing the prime minister post so he himself could be Khamenei’s partner in power as a president with a lot of added authority.
So, the current presidential system was a result of division of power between Rafsanjani and Khamenei and the then balance of power.
With Rafsanjani’s era over and while he was gradually being sidelined, the presidential system was no longer a garment fit for the regime; it was something imposed on Khamenei and in contrast with his absolute authority that, according to him, led to contradiction and power struggle between him and regime’s president.
This naturally pushed Khamenei to figure out how to get rid of the presidential system; meaning how to remove presidency from regime’s power structure and replace it with a prime minister who has less authority and more limited scope compared to a president.
At the height of his conflicts with regime’s former president Ahmadinejad, Khamenei once raised the possibility of turning the regime’s presidential system to a parliamentary one, saying “if it’s decided in the future that a parliamentary system would be better, then there would be no problem with changing the current set up.” (Khamenei’s speech in Kermanshah, October 16, 2011)
The plan was however taken off the table and not pursued due to, among other reasons, strong opposition coming from Rafsanjani, who believed it would weaken the republicanism side of the regime.
Now, why the issue is once again on the table?
First, because Rafsanjani is no longer on the scene.
The second and more important reason is that the regime is in a more critical and dangerous situation than ever before, so much so that State-run Kayhan newspaper writes on October 3, 2017 “the revolution and Islamic regime has never before been in such a critical and fateful situation, the extremely dangerous, decisive nature of this situation challenges the very existence and progressive trend of the Islamic Revolution.”
The Khamenei linked newspaper then concludes by the current situation that “given that the possible changes on enemy’s front, US in particular, are not going to resolve current situation’s paradoxical puzzle, the answer should rationally be sought in changes within our own front.”
Maybe it’s still early to conclude that “changes within own front” refers to this same transition from presidential to parliamentary system and removing presidential administration.
But at least we know that in two of his last month meetings, including his September-13th with head of regime’s Expediency Council and its members as well as his September-21st with members of regime’s Assembly of Experts, Khamenei gave new definitions for their responsibilities and missions, the Guardian Council’s in particular, implying how these entities could serve to strengthen Khamenei’s position as regime’s leader while weaken and contain the authority of the government.
The main reason behind Khamenei’s concerns and his struggles, however, is that he suffered defeat during regime’s recent presidential election show, as he failed to bring his own guy ’Ebrahim Raeisi’ to power and close the gap at the top of his regime.
So, the rift at the top of regime has remained intact, fueling the current crises and crippling the regime in terms of decision making.
Pointing to the situation, one of Rouhani linked newspapers has described it as “Islamic Republic’s car has multiple steering wheels. Our economy, culture, legislation, and justice each have several steering wheels and that’s why the Islamic Republic is moving at a low speed towards development.” (State-run Etemad newspaper, October 3, 2017)
But if, despite all difficulties and heavy consequences a system change brings for the crises-stricken regime, Khamenei somehow succeeds to move ahead with his plan, will he be able to solve his hegemony problem and unify the regime under his hand?
The answer is ‘absolutely not’ as this would only serve to wipe out the question rather than really trying to answer it, since the regime’s irresolvable power conflict is more than just a structural contradiction; it’s actually a deep, inherent one.
With an ultra-reactionary, medieval ‘vilayat-e-faqih’ head, and a capitalist and dependent body led by executive branch, the vilayat-e-faqih regime is intrinsically and strategically unable to consolidate.