April 8, 2020
The Iranian parliament (Majles) rejected an emergency bill for a one-month nationwide lockdown to control the spread of the coronavirus epidemic. In its first meeting in the new Iranian year on Tuesday April 7, lawmakers rejected the proposal because it “undermines the Constitution”.
The motion was supported by 80 members of the Iranian Parliament.
Health Minister Saeed Namaki, Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli and Vice-President Mohammad Baqer Nobakht who were supposed to be consulted on the bill arrived an hour late and were harshly criticized by the Deputy-Speaker of the Majles Massoud Pezeshkian for “not taking the outbreak seriously.”
Pezeshkian, a medical doctor, also accused the entire Rouhani administration several times during the session of not taking COVID-19 and its implications seriously. Majles Speaker Ali Larijani is quarantined at home for being infected with the virus.
According to the parliament’s news agency, ICANA, during the meeting Abdlokarim Hosseinzadeh, the MP that had tabled the motion for the one-month lockdown said the Majles had been side-lined for a month and was in effect barred from having a say in the affairs of the state. However, the reason parliament did not meet was at least partly due to multiple coronavirus cases among lawmakers.
Hosseinzadeh said that that the Majles has only 40 days left to do something about the outbreak and the lockdown motion could have saved lives if it was approved and implemented immediately as a triple urgency bill.
He said that if passed the bill would show that the Majles preferred the value of the people’s lives over saving the country’s economy.
A day earlier, Parvaneh Salahshouri, a reformist lawmaker charged that the Rouhani administration preferred economic interests to the people’s lives.
Meanwhile, deputy-speaker Pezeshkian called on the administration to present a national program for the fight against COVID-19 as a roadmap for the whole nation rather than every organization making a separate decision about disease control.
Pezeshkian was likely referring to frequent contradictions between the views of the President and medical experts, including the Health Minister about how to control the spread of COVID-19.
He also criticized the Rouhani administration for ignoring the Crisis Management Law that the Majles passed in September and handed over to the administration for implementation.
The two ministers and Vice-President Nobakht finally arrived and made general comments about the outbreak as it was too late to weigh-in on the bill. The Interior Minister in his speech claimed that there was a decline in the spread of the virus.
He praised the administration’s measures so far and defended Rouhani’s decision to end social distancing regulations and asking for two-thirds of government employees to report to work in less than a week. However, he said that this does not mean that the situation in the country is back to normal.
Medical experts have harshly criticized the move during the past days and stressed that the infection trend was still on an ascending curve and the resumption of businesses and government activities will increase the chance of yet another wave of contagion.
The Health Minister said his information about the outbreak and particularly different trends in various provinces, particularly in Qom and Gilan, cannot be discussed at an open session, and that he might discuss them in a closed-door meeting later.
Nobakht in his speech explained the administration’s economic problems without any reference to the one billion euros Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has authorized the administration to withdraw from the National Development Fund, ICANA reported.
Although most MPs were wearing masks in today’s session of the Majles, some lawmakers, including the deputy-speaker as well as the three visiting officials and the reporters present at the session were not wearing masks or observing social distancing rules as far as the state TV footage and ICAN’s pictures of the session showed.
On the other and, many social media users criticized and even mocked the limited working hours of the Majles saying the authorities may wrongly believe that COVID-19 is not active within certain hours. The same criticism was made about Rouhani’s comment regarding limited working hours for government offices starting from next week.