May 28 was the first day of the 10th Islamic Consultative Assembly, otherwise known as the Iranian parliament or Majlis. This time it is expected to be a very different house of 290 parliamentarians because of its makeup of reformist, independent and conservative parliamentarians after the elections earlier this year.
The new legislature which was elected in a hugely energetic and peaceful election – at least by recent Iranian standards – was elected on February 26 initially, with final run-off voting on April 29. In February, Reformist and Independent candidates swept the polls, winning over 66% of the total seats (42% for Reformist and 22.41% for Independent respectively). Meanwhile conservative candidates, “Principalists” as they are known in local currency, gained another 29% of the total seats.
The remaining seven seats were reserved for Iran’s ethnic religious minorities including Armenians, Jews, Assyrians and Zoroastrians.
This year’s parliament is also notable for its number of women MPs, who for the first time since the Iranian Revolution of 1979 outnumber the number of seated clerics in the main house.
Pictures and video from the May 28 opening show a full house of all senior politicians as well as religious figures, many of whom play important roles in the levers of power in the country, whether in the main parliament building or the other institutions of the Islamic Republic.
The current supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, issued a message to the parliamentarians. In his message the clerical leader stated his wish for the MPs to “realise the resistance economy” – an economic plan set out by him to improve the state of manufacturing in the country as opposed to relying solely on imports, and “to uphold the status of the Islamic Revolution against global arrogance and excessive demands”.
Using the term “global arrogance” Khamenei is directly referring to Western states – particularly the UK and US – and their perceived meddling in regional affairs currently and in the past.
“There are other priorities in different sections that pertain to national authority, reinforcement of security and the country’s impregnability, which guarantee the establishment of social justice, and the country’s independence and advancement,” he said, according to Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting.
Battle for the speaker’s seat
On May 29 Ali Larijani, the incumbent house speaker, was reelected to chair the parliamentary debates. Larijani secured his third term as leader of parliament by taking 173 of the 281 votes, while his main rival Mohammad Reza Aref took only 103 votes.
Larijani, running this time on an independent agenda, has previously acted well beyond his narrowly defined role, even becoming a special rapporteur on several occasions to regional and international capitals, and urged the previous parliament to support the nuclear negotiations with the West.
Up until this week it was looking increasingly likely that Larijani could lose his seat to reformist rival Mohammad Reza Aref, who was pushing hard for the position, according to local media outlets. Aref, a staunchly liberal politician – at least by the standards of the Islamic Republic – hit the headlines in 2013 when he pulled out of the presidential race in favour of incumbent President Hassan Rouhani. He had been expected to split the reformist vote.
To the Principalist group both are too easygoing for their liking, especially after the nuclear deal went through, but the minority grouping in the parliament have had to accept the lesser of two liberals in the form of Larijani.
Neither the reformist grouping nor the principalists have a majority in parliament. The numbers are not currently out on who voted which way, but it is likely the Independents held the day by pushing through Larijani.