Ever since the Jan. 8 death of Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Iranian media have been speculating about who will replace him as the chairman of the Expediency Council.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei directly appoints the members of the council, which is tasked with resolving differences between the parliament and the Guardian Council.
Moderates and Reformists have been of the view that President Hassan Rouhani, former parliament Speaker Ali Akbar Nategh-Nuri and parliament Speaker Ali Larijani are the most suitable candidates to chair the council.
Nategh-Nuri, who is now the head of the supreme leader’s Inspection Office, has the same political approach as Rafsanjani and is close to Khamenei, and as such is adept at managing differences.
Rouhani was one of Rafsanjani’s closest confidants for decades. It has been argued that the president's experience both in parliament and the executive branch, as well as having served as secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for 16 years, makes him one of the best choices for chairing the Expediency Council.
Larijani, meanwhile, has the experience of having chaired parliament since 2008 during three terms.
A conservative also could be selected. The semi-official ISNA news agency on Jan. 14 said conservative figures the media have said could be under consideration include former judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the supreme leader’s foreign policy adviser Ali Akbar Velayati, former parliament Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel, judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani and former Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps commander Mohsen Rezaei.
There are rumors about the possible appointment of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as chairman of the council. But the Reformist Aftab-e-Yazd newspaper argued Jan. 23 in response to these rumors, “It is well known that not only do the conservatives fundamentally not consider Ahmadinejad as a member of their fold, but it is also very unlikely that such a person has the chance to lead a council tasked with assessing expediency based on what is in the interest of the establishment.”
Also, the moderate Jomhuri Eslami newspaper published a report Jan. 17 saying that history indicates that the supreme leader might well appoint Rouhani chairman.
“During the first and second terms [of the council], the leadership of the Expediency Council was assumed by the president and it seems as if this was the [usual] procedure. Based on this, it is possible that the current president will be appointed as the head of the Expediency Council,” the paper said.
According to the Jan. 24 edition of the Reformist Hamdeli newspaper, when the Expediency Council was first set up, the responsibility of the chairmanship of the council was given to the president. Indeed, when it was set up in 1988, it was headed by then-President Khamenei. However, after the end of Rafsanjani’s second presidential term in 1997, Khamenei extended Rafsanjani's position as chairman of the Expediency Council, opting not to appoint subsequent presidents Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005) and Ahmadinejad (2005-2013) to head the council — neither during nor after their terms.
On Jan. 23, Expediency Council member and conservative presidential candidate Mostafa Mirsalim said it is not clear who will replace Rafsanjani.
Some see the choice as one between causing conflict or bringing people together. Mohammad Kianoush Raad, a Reformist activist, told the Ghanoon daily Jan. 12, “The appointment of the chairman of the Expediency Council can be a clear sign of drawing the political currents of Iran closer together or intensifying the irritations. … For example, if we assume that a figure such as Ahmad Jannati [the hard-line head of the Guardian Council] is appointed as the head of the Expediency Council, this wouldn’t be considered a sign of an improvement in the political and economic situation of our society. But the naming of people such as the president or Nategh-Nuri, based on their executive experience and their knowledge of legislative fundamentals and the moderate personas that they have, would be a very good sign of the creation of social and political understanding and consensus.”
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