TEHRAN, (Reuters) – Iran’s president has castigated the parliament speaker in a row over legislation that analysts see as part of a brewing battle between rival conservative factions before next year’s presidential election.
Conservatives loyal to Iran’s Islamic revolution principles kept control of parliament in last month’s assembly vote but hardliners in that camp likely to back any bid by Ahmadinejad for a second four-year presidential term lost ground.
Analysts expect the new parliament to expose rifts in the broad conservative camp as presidential hopefuls, who may include speaker Gholamali Haddadadel, challenge Ahmadinejad and in particular focus on his failure to curb inflation. The newly elected parliament takes office in May after Friday’s run-off vote for about 80 of parliament’s 290 seats not decided in the first round. Haddadel, the outgoing speaker who retained his seat, is expected to run for speaker again.
In a letter printed by newspapers on Tuesday, Ahmadinejad said Haddadel wrongly accused him of not officially notifying government bodies about three acts of legislation passed by parliament. He said the speaker should have checked his facts. “Would it not have been better for you to take three minutes to make a simple phone call to the legal department of the presidential office? … What was all this haste really for?” he wrote in the letter published by the daily Abrar newspaper. “Is it fair to baselessly put pressure on a government, which is under pressure for seeking justice by all those who are corrupt and all the oppressors?” Ahmadinejad wrote.
The letter did not give details of legislation in dispute. However, analysts said the significance was not the legal technicality but Ahmadinejad’s bid to score a political point. “He is trying to show he is under pressure from every side and show himself as a victim, something he is very scccessful at doing,” an Iranian analyst said in reference to Ahmadinejad’s 2005 presidential bid when he played on his apparent underdog status before making a surprise sweep to victory. “You will see more of these internal fights for the next year until we have this presidential election. It will get more ugly in the future,” the Iranian analyst said.
Haddadadel and Ahmadinejad had a public spat over a legislative technicality shortly before the March parliamentary election. In that row, Iran’s top authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, sided with the speaker.
Ahmadinejad had now jumped on a chance for “getting back at Haddadadel”, said the analyst, who asked not to be named.
Khamenei has often praised the president but has chided his government in the past for double-digit inflation, a major gripe among Iranians. Analysts say it will be vital for Ahmadinejad to retain the leader’s support for any successful re-election bid.
Ahmadinejad has not declared he will run but is expected to.
The economy, enjoying windfall oil earnings but suffering inflation that has climbed above 20 percent, could prove Ahmadinejad’s Achilles heel, analysts say. Critics in parliament are likely to focus on his economic management.
The conservative camp includes traditionalists, some of whom are wary of Ahmadinejad’s uncompromising policies at home and abroad, including his confrontational style in the nuclear row with the West. They fear he may be further isolating Iran.
Reformists, Amadinejad’s staunchest critics, remain a minority in parliament but could team up with more moderate conservatives to challenge the government, analysts say.