Tuesday, January 22, 2008

checks and balances in action?

An interesting data point on the question of whether Iran is a democracy.

Iran Leader Backs Parliament in a Dispute With Ahmadinejad

Published: January 22, 2008

TEHRAN — Iran’s supreme religious leader, in what appeared to be his first public dispute with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, sided with Parliament on Monday in a conflict over energy policy.

The supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, intervened after Mr. Ahmadinejad had refused to carry out a measure that required his government to supply gas to remote villages during this year’s exceptionally cold winter.

The government provides natural gas to the state-run gas company for a fee, and the gas is then sold to customers. Most of the country is running short, and rationing has been discussed. It is unclear what the legislation requires, but the villages involved presumably are among the hardest hit by the shortages.

“All legal legislation that has gone through procedures stipulated in the Constitution is binding for all branches of power,” the ayatollah said in a letter to Parliament, the semiofficial Fars news agency reported.

The speaker of Parliament, Gholamali Hadad Adel, said that Mr. Ahmadinejad had complained to him in the past months about some of the measures passed by Parliament. But Mr. Hadad Adel said he was surprised by a recent letter from Mr. Ahmadinejad in which he said that the natural gas law was unconstitutional.

“I was surprised by the president writing to Parliament to say a bill was against the Constitution,” he was quoted as saying by the semiofficial Mehr news agency. “This is unprecedented.” He added that it was the job of the Guardian Council, which is appointed by the supreme leader, to decide if a law passed by Parliament was unconstitutional.

Mr. Hadad Adel said he had sent a letter to Ayatollah Khamenei seeking his intervention to avoid further confrontation with Mr. Ahmadinejad.

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Although I didn't end up blogging while I was in Iran, I still want to share my experiences and impressions. I'll (hopefully) write each day about one day's experiences (much as if I were writing while on the trip, although inevitably the perspective is different). I'll also write separate posts to collect and summarize my thoughts and impressions on specific topics (i.e., the revolution, the government, women, etc.), based both on observations and on prior reading.

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Comments are welcome; offensive comments will be deleted. It's my blog, so I will be the sole and arbitrary judge of what is offensive. People seeking to insult (or advocate harm to) others can post that crap on their own blogs. Rationale: I have visited too many interesting blogs whose comments are a waste of space, full of ridiculously petty arguments and traded insults. (Boring!) Comments whining about the policy will also be deleted.