If you’re wondering how only 8 of 686 would-be candidates were allowed to run in Iran’s presidential election, it’s very simple. The Guardian Council of the Constitution approves candidates… or doesn’t if they’re not sufficiently keen on wholesome principles like death to Israel and death to the Great Satan and an Iranian nuclear bomb and such like. And where does this GCC come from? Again, very simple. The Supreme Leader chooses six members while the Parliament (whose legislation it can veto and whose candidates it can also veto) chooses six from a list prepared by the head of the Judicial Power who is (but you saw this coming) appointed by the Supreme Leader.
Even if you do get to be President, you don’t run the country. That’s the Supreme Leader, chosen by the Assembly of Experts (directly elected from candidates approved by… itself, and vetted by that darn Guardian Council again). Oh, and the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution can create things that aren’t laws but are binding and can’t be overruled except by the Supreme Leader… who appoints the SCCR personally.
Which raises the vexed question: Even if you could run for president of Iran, or for its parliament, why would you want to? That so many people would vote for a fake moderate anyway (a “pragmatist” according to the New York Times and we all know what that means) suggests most Iranians wish this question had a better answer than it does. But those who rule them for their own benefit without their genuine consent probably don’t care. Certainly this tangled self-perpetuating institutional framework suggests they don’t.
The decision by Alberta MP Brent Rathgeber (Edmonton-St. Albert) to leave the Conservative caucus is good news. Not primarily because he is right on the substance of the dispute, hostile amendments to a transparency bill, though he is, nor because it is an issue on which the public will probably support his courageous display of independent thought, though they probably will. The main thing is the vital constitutional reason he gave for his decision:
The more popular feeling certainly at PMO and the whip’s office is that caucus members should essentially be cheerleaders for the government and spread the government’s message as opposed to being some sort of legislative check on executive power. I don’t accept their premise.
As if expressly to prove his point, PMO Communications Director Andrew McDougall snarled on Twitter:
The people of Edmonton-St. Albert elected a Conservative Member of Parliament. Mr. Rathgeber should resign and run in a by-election.
McDougall has hold of the wrong end of the stick. The people of Edmonton-St. Albert elected, primarily, a Member of Parliament, a legislator to keep the executive including cabinet in check by their control of the power of the purse. In electing Mr. Rathgeber they also chose a Conservative, someone they rightly believed would support the Harper ministry on most issues as it attempted to carry out its electoral program. But they did so believing, rightly and crucially, that they were electing someone who by endorsing that program promised to withdraw his support if the Harper ministry did not keep its key promises on matters ranging from accountability to fiscal prudence to respecting the rights of backbenchers.
In leaving caucus Mr. Rathgeber has therefore vindicated the judgement of those who voted for him, and our true, ancient and battered Constitution. For all its other merits, his decision is most important for that reason.
How confused can politicians be about what they do for a living? Best not to ask, especially given Ontario Tory leader Tim Hudak’s latest inspiration to force politicians to explain why they won’t show lack of confidence in a ministry they might have confidence in.
John Robson, columnist and commentator with Sun Media, is also an Invited Professor at the University of Ottawa and a commentator-at-large with News Talk Radio 580 CFRA in Ottawa. With a B.A. and M.A. in history from the University of Toronto and a Ph.D in American history from the University of Texas at Austin, he has worked in academia, think tanks and politics as well as doing print, radio, TV and online journalism in Canada. He is married to Brigitte Pellerin.
Mark Dunn is senior national reporter with Sun Media. He’s one of the few born and bred Ottawa journalists covering Parliament Hill. And he’s believed to be the only journalist to have worked in senior communication roles in political offices for a sitting government and opposition offices. The former Canadian Press reporter is a huge NFL and NASCAR fan, former ski instructor and member of the Canadian Ski Patrol. Friends will say he has the golden touch when it comes to grilling on the Q. Dunn is also an adventurous traveller who likes reading, music and television crime shows.