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Posted Friday, May 28, 2004

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TEHRAN, 28 May (IPS) The new Iranian Majles, or Parliament, dominated by the conservatives and independent deputies was officially inaugurated on Thursday with shouts of “death to America”, making the usually austere ceremonies the first ever highly politicised one.

This despite the fact that the new MMs (Members of the Majles) had, during their campaigning, wowed they would abstain from engaging in “futile political recriminations” paying more and due attention to addressing people’s “real demands”, clear reference to the last reformists-controlled Majles the conservatives would often accuse of being too politically-motivated and wasting too much of its time in debating matters not the people’s bread.

This had been highlighted by Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the leader of the Islamic Republic in his lengthy inaugural message to the new Majles, accusing the outgoing reformist MMs of having played into the hand of the Americans “out of ignorance”.

The event was marred from the outset after some angry MMs shouted against Hojjatoleslam Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari, the Interior Minister, who, in a speech, reminded that many of the new deputies have occupied their seats thanks to the Council of the Guardians that had disqualified hundreds of reformist candidates.

Conservatives won Iran's controversial general elections in February after thousands of reformist candidates were disqualified from standing by the leader controlled Council of the Guardians.


The event was marred from the outset after some angry MMs shouted against Hojjatoleslam Abdolvahed Mousavi-Lari, the Interior Minister


From a total of 290 seats in the new parliament, about 190 belong to the conservatives. The reformists, who dominated the previous chamber, have only about 50 seats.

To cool down the atmosphere, some deputies proposed anti-American slogans be shouted loudly. His suggestion was immediately welcomed with a big “death to America” from the audience.

“This is the first time that the inauguration ceremonies of a Majles under the 25 years of the Islamic Republic regime becomes overtly political at a time that the new deputies had been told and even warned to stay away from politics”, one Iranian analyst noted.

For his part, Hojjatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, the lamed and powerless President whom the Guardians had done everything to stop the reforms he had promised the nation upon his first election in May 1997 hoped that he would work with the new parliament in a “friendly atmosphere”.

Reflecting on the outgoing Majles, Mohammad Qoochani, the Editor of the pro-reform daily “Sharq” wrote on Thursday “taking into account all considerations, the sixth Majles was by far the most democratic in the 25 year life of the Islamic Republic”.

But other dissidents like the Paris-based Ali Keshtgar said though the reformists are to blame for their defeat, yet one has to agree that the reform movement lacked bold leadership at the top. “Unfortunately, Mr. Khatami was not the man for the job”, he told the Persian service of BBC.

An academic, Mr. Haddad-Adel, an in-law of Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, famously said that the main objective of the conservatives now was to turn Iran into an "Islamic Japan".


The conservative deputies who now dominate again the Majles had earlier nominated Mr. Qolamali Haddad Adel as the new Speaker.

It is the first time that a non-turbaned personality becomes Speaker since the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Due to the importance of the position in Iran's power structure, the ruling clergy never trusted anybody outside their own ranks to assume it.

An academic, -- he is a professor of literature and philosophy at Tehran University -- and leader of the minority conservative faction in the outgoing Mr. Haddad-Adel is also an in-law of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, who’s son is married to the daughter of Mr. Haddad Adel.

He famously said that the main objective of the conservatives now was to turn Iran into an "Islamic Japan".

"Whether or not they have a particular program for [the economy], at least I'm not aware [of one]," Sadegh Zibakalam, a professor of political science at Tehran University told Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty, "but certainly, they have been arguing, and they have been advocating so much for economic reforms and improving the standard of living, [about] doing something about the huge number of unemployed that Iran is having at the moment and controlling the prices."

“But times are changing and now there is a new generation of conservatives who are as dedicated to the Islamic system of government as the official custodians of religion themselves”, commented Mr. Sadeq Saba of the BBC.

“The selection of a non-cleric as head of the legislature is also an attempt to give a new image to the Islamic republic, where people often complain that clerics are keeping all-important positions of power for themselves”, he added.

Mr Haddad-Adel has tried to give the conservatives a moderate image since their controversial victory in April, but the opening ceremonies strengthened the fear of some analysts forecasting “harder time for the dissidents in particular and the population in general”.

In a recent interview, Haddad Adel said the new parliament will focus on people's day-to-day problems. In an interview published on his party's website, he said: "People are suffering from costly life expenses, high rents, unemployment, drug addiction, and traffic problems, particularly in Tehran."

“Undeliberately though, the new MMs took off the mask, showing the people, the press, the intellectuals, the scholars and above all the dissidents what might expect them if they cross the many red lines set by the ruling minority establishment”, pointed out another commentator.

Analysts say it is not coincidence that at the same time, Radio and Television get a new boss known for his total allegiance to the leader while the military from the Revolutionary Guards are playing a more prominent role in the political life of the nation.

They were referring to the appointment of Mr. Ezzatollah Zarqami, a former Guards commander and the fact that there are more than 30 former officers seating in the new parliament. ENDS SEVENTH MAJLES 28504


new MMs at anti American rally in Tehran on Friday


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