Thursday, May 10, 2007

New Councils, New Mayors, New Fractions

Last week across Iran new city councils began their tenure. The first item on their agenda was and for some still is electing a mayor. Elected in last December, the majority of city council seats are divided between reformers and moderate conservatives, the groups identified solely by President Ahmadinejad’s agenda became a minority. Although the voters in Tehran, the capital, elected 3 reformers but moderate and traditional conservatives became the majority, while President Ahmadinejad’s party became a third minority in council unable to influence the choice of Mayor by themselves.

Position of mayor of Tehran has been a politically sensitive seat of authority. The mayor’s decision would influence the lives of the millions living in the largest city of Iran. This enables the mayor to seek higher office. Two former mayors actually have become politicians of national significance. Although one, Mr. Karbaschi, ended up in a cell in Evin’s prison and the other, Mr. Ahmadinejad, is the current President of Islamic Republic.

When Mr. Ahmadinejad moved to the President’s office, Mr. Qalibaf, once commander of Police forces and a brigadier of Revolutionary Guards received vote of confidence to become mayor of Tehran. Ironically he had been one of the candidates in presidential election competing with the current president. Needless to say President’s allies would prefer someone else in this seat that served them as a jumping stage.

This made the election of a new mayor vital and put 3 reformer members of the city council in spot light. There were at least 4 individuals nominated who made it to quarter finals for the post: Mr. Qalibaf, Mr. Bayadi, Mr SaidiKia, who is a current member of cabinet, Mr. Shairatimadar and Mr. Khadem. There were two women nominated for the job at the first round who did not receive enough votes. Mr. SaidiKia resigned from competition and Mr. Bayadi and Mr. Shariatmadar did not receive enough votes to stay in the competition. Thus it came down to Mr. Qalibaf and Mr. Khadem.

The final round was a breath taking one since both candidates draw the same support. 7 votes in favor of Mr. Qalibaf and 7 in favor of Mr. Khadem and 1 abstained. After two rounds of voting an unknown member changed position in favor of Mr. Qalibaf. Thus Mr. Qalibaf remained the mayor of Tehran.

This locally significant event rises to national stage in Iran, since it shows reformers are willing to collaborate with the moderate conservatives. Moderate conservatives also realize that reformers are realistically pragmatic and can be relied on. The significance of this event is multiplied when one remembers that this week some members of Osoolgarayaan fraction, which includes President’s supporters in parliament, established a new parliamentary fraction: Independent Osoolgarayaan. Mr. Afrough one of the founders although conservative is considered an outspoken critique of current cabinet.

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