Jewish World Review Oct 28, 2011 / 30 Tishrei, 5772
Iran mulls getting rid of president and presidency
By Dale McFeatters
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Iranian politics may seem complex and opaque but as in all authoritarian countries it comes down to a question of raw power, who has it and who can use it.
Iran is rapidly approaching the issue of whose might makes right in the widening split between one-time allies, supreme leader Ali Khamenei, who in theory has the final say over all government decisions, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who believes he should be able to govern without interference.
The two have had a falling out over Ahmadinejad’s attempt to build a power base, not exactly independent of Khamenei but substantially free from his direct influence. Matters came to a head last spring when the president tried to fire a Khamenei favorite from his cabinet and then was forced in humiliating fashion to reinstate the official.
The two leaders have grown increasingly estranged ever since. Now Khamenei has come up with a solution for the uppity Ahmadinejad. Under the Khamenei solution, Iran would simply eliminate the office of president in favor of a prime minister.
The prime minister would be chosen by parliament, an elected body to be sure, but composed of candidates screened and handpicked by representatives of the ruling clerics. Typically hundreds of would-be candidates are barred from running. Moreover, the speaker of the parliament, Ali Larijani, is a Khamenei ally, an Ahmadinejad rival and, not surprisingly, in favor of having parliament pick Iran’s political leader.
The next parliamentary elections are in 2012, meaning the ruling clerics could do away with the presidential election the next year. Iran’s rulers were badly rattled by the 2009 presidential election that returned Ahmadinejad to office. That election was so blatantly fixed that Tehran and many other cities erupted in huge street demonstrations that were suppressed with mass imprisonments and unusual brutality.
Khamenei and his parliamentary allies would have managed the tricky business of changing the country’s constitution, which might reopen the question of why Iran, with its pretensions to be a modern nation, has a supreme leader, selected by a small inner circle, for life.
However this plays out, it will only worsen the deep cynicism of the Iranian people and underscore the fact that neither the supreme leader or the president have any true political legitimacy, at least as that is understood by the major nations whose respect Iran craves.
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