Tardy in Tehran: MPs Frequently Late or Absent from Public Parliamentary Sessions

In the past few weeks, many MPs have been absent from or late to attend public sessions of parliament. Based on Majlis’ house rules, two-thirds of MPs have to be present in order for public hearings to be considered official. However, repeated absences of MPs have become common in public hearings and have consequently limited parliamentary participation. Is there a penalty for these absences?

Authorized Absences

MPs, like other public servants, are entitled to leaves of absence. Majlis’ house rules suggest that leaves of absence are for anticipated medical treatments and require medical permission for approval. However, Gholamali Jafarzadeh Iman-Abadi, MP from Rasht, made a bold statement when he accused MPs of not respecting the law regarding attendance at Majlis sessions. During an interview with Tabnak, Iman-Abadi said that there is no structure for leaves of absence from the parliament. He suggested that an MP who is also a medical doctor has been issuing sick leave permissions for himself and for other MPs. Iman-Abadi stressed his view that there are no trustworthy doctors in Majlis.

Nor Al-din Pirmozan, member of the health commission during the sixth and seventh parliaments, told Majlis Monitor that he was the only medical doctor in the health commission during his tenure. A former MP from Ardabil who was also a medical doctor, Pirmozan claims that he can’t recall a time when MPs approached him for medical permissions. However, he always had medical permissions from other doctors that he had to approve.

Entering and Leaving Parliament Without Permission

Leaving parliament without permission has contributed to a decrease in the participation of MPs in public hearings. Depending on overall attendance numbers, even an individual MP’s exit can annul an official meeting of Majlis. Aman-Abadi, the MP from Rasht, claims that many MPs enter and leave sessions with permission. These permissions are usually authorized as a result of MPs’ lobbying of staff. Primozan confirmed this and said that if MPs have good relations with secretary staff they can freely enter and leave parliamentary sessions.

MPs’ Report of Absences to the People

In-house rules specify that the Board of Directors is obligated to produce a report after each parliamentary session that indicates the names of participants and absentees for that session. The Board is also responsible for:

  • Asking MPs to resign after 100 hours or more in consecutive sick leave, and 250 hours of nonconsecutive leave.
  • Demanding disclaimers from 30 MPs in cases where an MP is absent for four months for medical reasons. The disclaimers should be put to a Majlis vote, and if two-thirds of MPs agree, the MP in question is dismissed.
  • Financial penalties for absentees.
  • Announcing the names of absentees.

Pirmozan also argues that the Board of Directors has never addressed MP absences in a serious manner. He claims that two MPs who passed away were never excused by the Board of Directors, even after that had been hospitalized for months. Pirmozan says that he, himself, was penalized when he had boycotted the sixth parliament due to the mass disqualification of candidates. He claims that he was only punished because his absence was for political reasons.

Even with their high rate of absences, MPs have more leave days than any other public servant. The silence of a large number of MPs regarding the absence of an average of 80 MPs during each public session suggests that adherence to the law – which is the most important responsibility of MPs – is not a priority in Majlis. On the other hand, the Board of Directors’ annual report on MP attendance remains in parliament and is not made available to the public. Essentially, the Board of Directors is depriving the public of its right to measure the performance of MPs – which includes review of MP attendance at parliamentary sessions.