The Expediency Council can override the existing laws and religious edicts and overlook the viewpoints of the Guardian Council if it deems it expedient, Chairman of the Expediency Council Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told a gathering on the macro-policies of the establishment and how their implementation should be supervised.
The Constitution of the Islamic Republic gives supervision powers to the Supreme Leader, he said, adding, “Had the leader decided to exercise those powers, the process could have been much stricter. But the leader has decided to delegate that authority to the Expediency Council.”
Mr. Rafsanjani went on to say, “Initially, the supervision in question was simply meant to make sure parliamentary acts did not run counter to the macro-policies of the establishment, but after a while the leader floated the idea of ensuring the compatibility of the decisions of the Islamic Consultative Assembly with the country’s macro-policies. The Supreme Leader believes those policies are crucial and serve as a link between the Constitution and the Executive Power.”
The following is the translation of the speech the top councilor made at the gathering on Tuesday. The text of the speech which drew widespread attention in the Iranian newspapers was taken from the official website of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani:
“The late Imam Khomeini personally appointed members of the Expediency Council and tasked them with drafting the council’s bylaws. In order not to interfere with the operations of other institutions, we [members of the council] limited the scope of the council’s powers. But Imam Khomeini did not approve of the bylaws we had developed and said the Expediency Council had to keep an eye on all aspects [of the administration of affairs].
“When the revolution was young and the Constitution was being drafted, there was no word of the Expediency Council, and no one ever expected it to emerge. But realities on the ground prompted Imam Khomeini and then others to conclude that there was a gap to be filled in the country given that a major change had taken place.
“When a draft Constitution was debated in the Revolution Council and handed over to Imam Khomeini, some experts weighed in on the charter, but there was no talk of the Expediency Council, or the rule of the religious jurisprudence for that matter.
“When the Constitutional Assembly first met, the powers of the religious jurisprudent were discussed. Still there was no talk of any institution called the Expediency Council. Ten years after the victory of the revolution, when several problems cropped up, the absence of an institution like the Expediency Council began to be felt.
“Back then the Guardian Council and the Islamic Consultative Assembly were at odds over a series of laws. Actually adoption of those laws had hit a snag. Eventually, Imam decided that there had to be an institution to settle those problems. That decision was communicated to the heads of government branches. In a letter, we asked Imam Khomeini to make his decision operational.
“The problem that was felt after the demise of Imam Khomeini was that [in the absence of macro-policies as we know them today] there was no certain direction for different sectors, something which was to blame for some inconsistencies. So, when the Constitution was to be amended, that question was raised too.
“Today in many institutions, managers are still unfamiliar with the macro-policies of the establishment and their content. Similarly, many in society do not know much about those policies.
“When a parliamentary act is sent to the Expediency Council, because of time constraint, we cannot assess every detail of the law, so we only let the Guardian Council know about the faults we have found with the parliamentary act. The Guardian Council, accordingly, informs the chamber about the problems of the law. But the parliament can opt not to accept the fault(s) we have found, because there is no arbiter in the chamber and MPs can opt not to vote for an amended version of the law.
“When we were drafting the supervision bylaws of the Council, we had some disagreements with the heads of the three branches of government who wanted to limit the supervisory role of the Expediency Council. We, on the other hand, believed things had to be the way the council wanted them to be.
“During the presidency of Mr. Khatami, we had long meetings with his representatives, but the supervision bylaws were slightly reformed. During the presidency of Mr. Ahmadinejad we had the same problem [of government not wanting any supervision by the Expediency Council]. Ahmadinejad had openly said he did not approve of the council. He made no secret of such disapproval. As for the Outlook Plan, he implemented the parts he approved of and brushed aside the provisions he did not like.
“The Fourth Development Plan was based on the [20-year] Outlook Plan. Since Ahmadinejad did not believe in the Outlook Plan, he oversaw the implementation of only 23 percent of its provisions.
“We sent an amended supervisory bylaw of the Expediency Council to the Supreme Leader. Four years later the leader communicated a more detailed bylaw to the council. In drafting the new bylaw, the leader did not make any consultation with us, because he knew we were considerate of the powers of other institutions. The Supreme Leader believes the macro-policies of the establishment are crucial and serve as a link between the Constitution and the Executive.
“The Expediency Council does not put any pressure on executive institutions; rather we have just asked them to send us progress reports. The reports are confirmed if there are no inconsistencies in them; if not, we’ll return them to the agency that has sent it to us. In case they fail to make the necessary amendments, we’ll report the case to the Leader who makes the necessary decisions.
“What we do at the Expediency Council is preventive in nature and entails no punitive measures. We just report the cases to the leader who makes the final decision. In fact, the leader is the main supervisor and we are just acting on his behalf.
“Although new regulations are devised in institutions such as the Judiciary on a daily basis, they do not report their decisions to the council. Other agencies such as IRIB (national broadcaster) and the Armed Forces Organization are under the direct supervision of the leader too.
“The Expediency Council has received no new funding for its supervisory role and taps into its limited budget to carry on its oversight.
“We hope the new trend [in which a large number of councilors regularly attend its meetings] will continue into the future because such arrangement serves everyone’s interests.”