Mashhad’s firebrand Friday prayer leader hardline Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda says there is no room in Iran for a referendum, Radio Farda reported on Saturday.
Chiming in with others close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Alamolhoda reacted to President Hassan Rouhani’s suggestion for holding referendum to settle disputes in the Iranian society.
Alamolhoda said that suggesting a referendum is tantamount to supporting a secular democracy.
Alamolhoda stressed that it is only the Supreme Leader who can call for a referendum.
IRGC-linked press quoted Alamolhoda as saying in his sermons on Friday February 16: “The Supreme Leader solves all the problems that occur in the country’s management.”
He said: “Iran is a religious democracy and a secular democracy is the wrong system” for Iran.
Addressing President Rouhani, Alamolhoda said about Rouhani suggesting the idea of a referendum in his revolution anniversary speech on February 11: “This might lead people to think that you support a secular democracy.”
He warned Rouhani against “undermining the foundation of the Mullah's regime in order to please a laic pro-Western minority.”
Several other Friday prayers leaders in various cities including Qom said in a concerted move that the pro-government rally on February 11 was in itself a referendum during which the people pledged allegiance to Khamenei. They asked “state officials” not to stir controversy.
Rouhani had said that based on Article 59 of the Iranian Constitution, resorting to referendum could solve disputes among various government institutions over matters such as vetting election candidates and respecting people’s privacy.
Ruhani’s statement elicited hard reactions by people close to Khamenei, although the kind of referendum he suggested had nothing to do with the essence of the regime.
Khamenei’s representative at the leading hardline daily Kayhan, Hossein Shariatmadari, characterized Rouhani’s statement as “stirring controversy, playing to the hands of the enemy, and insulting those who took part in the revolution anniversary rally.”
Hardline Islamic Coalition Party leader Mohammad Nabi Habibi invited Rouhani to a debate on the issue and Tehran’s hardline Friday prayer leader Ahmad Khatami called on Rouhani to “correct himself,” and told “those who were pleased by Rouhani’s suggestion” that “they would never see a referendum being held in Iran.”
On the other hand, reformist commentator Abbas Abdi wrote in the reformist daily Etemad that ruling out the idea of referendum would make some of the articles of the Constitution obsolete.
Based on Article 59 of the Iranian Constitution, referenda may be called to put major economic, political, social and cultural issues to the nation’s direct vote,” adding that “Two-third of the Majles (parliament) should approve the call for holding a referendum.”
Article 177 of the Constitution, however, contradicts parliament’s prerogative in initiating a referendum. It stipulates that it is the Supreme Leader who, after consulting the Expediency Council, issues an order to the president to amend the Constitution.”
Simultaneous with Rouhani’s suggestion, 14 political and civil activists and a number of lawyers and filmmakers also called for a UN-supervised referendum to change the current Islamic regime to a “parliamentary secular democracy.”
Noble peace award laureate Shirin Ebadi, promminent lawyers Nasrin Sotudeh and Nargess Mohammadi and world renowned filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohsen Makhmalbaf were among those who signed this petition.