By Ali Kushki

New Majlis to take on mission amid high hopes for change for the better

May 27, 2016

TEHRAN – The new Iranian Majlis (Parliament) will be sworn in on Saturday amid hopes for a change for the better.

Iranians went to the polls on February 26 and the April runoff to decide who will present them in the 290-seat legislative body in a parade of democracy.
The election round was a contest between entrenched-in-power principlists pitting their popularity against reformist and moderate figures, who practically re-entered the political scene of the country after an eight-year hiatus.
The tug of war between the two opposing poles was felt the most in the capital Tehran where reformists outmaneuvered rivals, sweeping all thirty seats.
Whatsoever the parliamentary make-up, Iranians will expect a change of tack and this has been mainly influenced by the performance of the 9th parliament, particularly when it comes to the economic sector.  
According to the former parliament speaker Ali Larijani, economic bills accounted for almost one third of all legislations ratified in the parliament.
During eight years of unrivalled domination over the body, MPs okayed passing, inter alia, subsidy reform plan and fuel rationing. Although the reforms were necessary, paving the way for a more efficient economy, MPs failed to monitor a proper implementation of the plans by the Ahmadinejad administration so as to make sure the plans would be implemented as depicted.
Moreover, unbridled inflation rates, high unemployment, lack of long-term vision, and hasty implementation of macro plans are among other economic plagues believed by Iranians to be directly linked with what was happening all these years in the parliament.
To the list, one can add some parliamentarians’ negative attitude to the nuclear deal Iran struck with the West though it was ratified at the end of the day.
While Iranians should learn to live with long-term consequences of the wrong decisions made, there is high hope for a much better performance now that their country is in the process of unshackling its economy from years of sanctions imposed led by the West. 
In addition to all challenges inherited from the Ahmadinejad administration, the new parliament should act in more harmony with the incumbent government so as to find a way out of the economic stagnation which is stifling the country.
Moreover, with the government and parliament moving in unison, it would be less challenging to cope with the environmental crisis Iran is facing due to years of low precipitation and mismanagement. A more realistic confrontation with the issue will guarantee a greener Iran.
How successful the two will be in hashing out disputes over the above-cited issues hinges on, to a great extent, who will be the next parliament speaker. Two options are on the table.
One is the reformist Mohammad Reza Aref who secured the heaviest share of public backing in the metropolis of Tehran in the February parliamentary elections.
In his recent interviews, Aref has laid emphasis on seeking a “participatory approach” in the upcoming parliament, saying managing the Majlis is more than presiding over the legislative body.
The reformist heavyweight made the remarks in a recent hour-long interview with the Shargh daily in reply to a question on the strategy adopted by the figure and his parliamentary bloc known as “Hope” to cooperate with other parliamentary rivals.

The former vice president had also previously vowed to seek change of tack in the upcoming parliament, calling for more harmony between the upcoming parliament and government to address issues as unemployment, inflation, etc.
The Stanford-educated reformist stands a high chance of winning the seat of speakership and this can leave the Rouhani administration with more leeway to implement its economic reforms.
On the other side, there is the veteran Ali Larijani, already taking the helm of Majlis for two four-year terms (2008-2016), has shown to be a man of working out a “yes” out of numerous ‘noes.”
He could do it once when it was not quite clear what would happen to the fate of the nuclear deal. Larijani has also been heralding the importance of prioritizing economic concerns.
We are only a couple of days from learning the next parliament speaker and Iranians will expect a different and strong parliament, when national interests and prosperity of the nation are at the fore.

 

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