A sarcastic Ahmadinejad evaded questions by making jokes, prompting anger among the Iranian MPs
It was the day opponents of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had long been waiting for – to see him called to account before the parliament.
But for those who are familiar with Ahmadinejad’s many tactics of evading questions, it came as no surprise that the president did not take the session seriously and adopted a sarcastic tone.
In an unprecedented move, the parliament last month summoned Ahmadinejad to answer a series of questions about the government’s handling of the economy and his personal judgments.
No Iranian president in the history of the Islamic republic has ever been summoned to parliament for questioning, though Abdulhassan Banisadr, Iran’s first post-revolutionary president, was impeached in June 1981 and exiled for allegedly attempting to undermine clerical power in the country.
In this case, the questioning will not automatically lead to his impeachment but it could prepare the ground for such a decision.
Ahmadinejad attempted to answer a list of 10 questions provided to him beforehand, which included queries about the government’s controversial plan to reform subsidies, and his refusal to comply with parliamentary legislation.
But among the most controversial issues, Ahmadinejad was asked to give explanation about a period last year when he stayed away from the presidential palace for 11 days in apparent protest at the supreme leader Ali Khamenei’s reinstatement of a minister he had asked to step down.
Speaking at the parliament, he said: “This is one of those things. Ahmadinejad staying home and resting. Some of my friends have repeatedly told me to rest. In this government, work has never stopped – even for a day.”
Since his alleged walkout from the presidential office, a rift has developed between the president and Khamenei. Supporters of the supreme leader publicly accused Ahmadinejad and his close confident and chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, of being connected to a “deviant current” aimed at undermining Islamic values as well as the authority of Khamenei.
At the end of the session, Ahmadinejad appeared satisfied with his own answers. “It was not a very difficult quiz,” he joked. “To me, those who designed the questions were from among those who got a master’s degree by just pushing a button. If you had consulted us, better questions could have been drawn up,” he said, adding he expected to be given a top score in the parliament’s “quiz”.
Ahmadinejad’s comments – his closing statements in particular – sparked uproar among MPs, who accused him of being impolite to parliament.
“Here is not a place to share jokes. This is the parliament. The president has no right to insult the legislature,” said an angry Iranian MP, Mohammad Reza Khabbaz.
Another MP, Mostafa Reza Hossein, said: “The president’s language was insulting during his entire speech. He escaped answering the questions. As predicted, we didn’t receive any logical answer from the president.”
The semi-official Mehr news agency reported after the session that the MPs were not convinced by the president’s answers and were due to issue a statement.
Today’s questioning was the result of a year-long internal debate and unsuccessful attempts to question or impeach the president, only coming when MPs finally secured enough signatures to summon him.
There were unconfirmed reports of of a clash between supporters and opponents of Ahmadinejad as he spoke.
In a separate incident today, Khamenei reinstated a prominent cleric, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, as the head of Iran’s expediency council, which mediates between the parliament and the Guardian Council. The Guardian Council is in charge of vetting all candidates before any elections and also approving parliamentary legislations.
Hashemi Rafsanjani who has enjoyed significant influence over Iranian politics in the past, has seen his power diminish in recent years because of his support for the opposition and a series of spats with supporters of both Ahmadinejad and Khamenei.
from Saeed Kamali Dehghan