Claim of ‘dirty money’ in politics provokes uproar in Iran
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Ahead of crucial parliamentary elections, Iranian lawmakers are in an uproar after the country’s interior minister alleged some of the millions of dollars made by drug smugglers in the Islamic Republic fund politicians’ campaigns.
Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli’s comments may serve as an opening salvo in a potentially bruising campaign for parliament in the Islamic Republic, which is torn between moderates like President Hassan Rouhani and hard-liners who oppose his negotiations with world powers over the country’s contested nuclear program.
Fazli has made the accusation twice this week and it became the focus of discussions Wednesday in parliament.
“If (he) has information about transfer of (dirty) money in recent elections that helped people get to power, he should hand the information over to the judiciary to be investigated,” parliament speaker Ali Larijani said. “Such ambiguous talk has no outcome other than causing unjustified suspicion.”
Fazli has not specifically named any politician, though he said some 200 trillion rials ($5.9 billion) made from drugs and smuggling course through Iran’s economy.
“Unfortunately, part of money from smuggling of drugs enters politics and is used in election campaign,” he said.
Iran is a main route for narcotics smuggled from Afghanistan’s poppy fields into Europe’s capitals. Methamphetamine production and abuse also is skyrocketing in the country, despite potential death sentences for users and smugglers.
Iran is set to hold parliamentary elections Feb. 26. They will be a key test for Rouhani, who hopes his allies will win the majority in the 290-seat house, currently dominated by hard-liners. The vote will shape Iran’s direction for four years.
Rouhani’s success — or failure — at nuclear talks could sway the vote. Corruption allegations also will play a part, as even a former first vice president was taken to prison last month to serve time on a corruption conviction.
Lawmaker Mahdi Isazadeh acknowledged there some who want to be elected at any cost.
“Some people make efforts to enter the parliament at any price,” he said. “It doesn’t make any difference to them whether the money spent in election campaign is dirty money or clean.”