These days, the Iranian Parliament (Majlis) Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf prepares himself for the 2021 Presidential election. In this context, he raises ridiculous claims about people’s livelihood dilemmas and their hardship. He has claimed that the Majlis will pay attention to citizens’ problems.
“We study the 2021-22 budget bill article to article and will principally reform it in the way that benefits the people’s livelihood and our dear country,” Majlis’s official website ICANA quoted Ghalibaf as saying on December 20.
Notably, the Majlis Speaker has a notorious background in corruption and embezzlement, which forced him to resign as Tehran Mayor in 2017. Tehrani residents know him as someone who donated public estates and properties to his allies and relatives.
In May 2017, during the Presidential campaign, Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri shed light on Ghalibaf’s corruption cases. “Mr. Ghalibaf, have you ever known about the Ghavamin bank conditions? You established many of these credit institutions,” Jahangiri said.
Furthermore, in 1999, as the commander-in-chief of the State Security Forces (SSF), he played a leading role in the crackdown on student protests. During the 2017 Presidential debate, President Hassan Rouhani revealed Ghalibaf’s ruthless methods called ‘putting students in pipes’ to suppress protesters.
“Mr. Ghalibaf, you always planned to put [protesters] into ‘pipes.’ Every time, you were saying in the secretariat [of the National Security Supreme Council], ‘Let me put these students into pipes over two hours. If we didn’t object to you, now, all the Iranian universities would have been filled with pipes,” ILNA news agency quoted Rouhani as saying on May 12, 2017.
Ghalibaf is also proud of crimes against dissidents, including supporters of the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK/PMOI), in the 1980s. “I’d be among club wielders on the ground if it was necessary to beat [people], and it is my pride. Since 1979 I was beating [MEK leader] Massoud Rajavi‘s supporters. We were beating them on the streets and in colleges and were stopping them. We were among Beheshti’s supporters and they were Massoud Rajavi’s. We have been club wielders on the ground since then,” Ghalibaf said in a Basij meeting in Tehran Sharif University on May 12, 2013.
Moreover, the Majlis itself is considered one of the corrupt centers, which issues ‘necessary licenses’ for plundering institutions. Several officials implicitly admit to the Majlis’s role in profiteering policies, saying, “The budget bill depends on expenditures of [official’s] loved ones.”
On December 16, the state-run Ofogh TV Channel even stepped further and bluntly blamed MPs for looting people’s belongings. “Improving the livelihood is carried out by withdrawing the nation’s savings,” the TV Channel said in a broadcast.
On the same day, Shargh daily pointed out expenditures that are supposed to be covered through people’s pockets. “The same Majlis, whose members were at the top of flu vaccine receivers’ lists and some of them were rejecting automakers’ gifted cars because the cars were not SUV-model, these MPs are supposed to receive a 1.88-trillion-rial [$7.286 million] welfare credit,” Shargh wrote on December 16.
“Thanks to the chart—published for the first time about the 2021-22 budget bill and which showed how executive organs spend credits—we obtained interesting figures about welfare expenditures of the country’s legislator apparatus. The big number belongs to the Majlis, and the Guardian Council will also spend 130 billion rials [$504,000] on welfare fields [alone],” the daily added.
This is while MPs systematically benefit from special privileges such as a Dena+ automobile and billion rials of low-interest loans for residing in the best areas in the capital, renting an office, and hiring staff, who are usually chosen from their relatives.
Surprisingly, Ghalibaf claimed he would improve impoverished people’s livelihood while each lawmaker has received 2 billion rials [$7,750] as the housing right. Notably, this huge bonus is in addition to stellar salaries and pensions.
On the other hand, to help the budget bill gain approval, Rouhani’s government has filled MPs’ accounts with countless advantages. Rouhani grants generous privileges to MPs while many of the administration’s employees and workers, including municipal workers, have yet to receive their wages for several months. However, as people endure additional pressure due to the coronavirus consequences, the government prefers to fill MPs’ pockets.
“For five months, you did not pay my salary. As a sweeper and municipal worker, how should I respond to my family? How can I say to my children that I have no money?” a municipal worker said in a clip circulated on social media.
However, MPs’ luxury lifestyles and windfall salaries have intensified public hatred of the legislator apparatus. Many people believe that no one represents them at the Majlis and all of the ‘lawmakers’ are Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei‘s appointees and merely obey and implement his orders.
The economic gap between governors and the people they governed displays systematic corruption and officials’ abuse of power. This issue prompted officials to frequently warn each other about public ire and potential anti-establishment protests.
“Officials’ and managers’ aristocratic lives and forgetting the hardships faced by society’s low-income and needy classes are the reasons for the people’s growing economic and living dilemmas. Any kind of negligence about the future would lead the country to serious challenges,” ICANA quoted Hossein Noosh-Abadi, MP from Tehran, as saying on December 16.
Ghalibaf’s hollow gestures and Noosh-Abadi’s remarks prove the country’s fragile conditions. In reality, the Iranian government is deeply concerned about potential protests, which may end the dictatorship’s rule. Officials’ 41 years of failures and the coronavirus consequences have placed society in a volatile state, and this volcano may erupt at any moment.