An interview with Morteza Mobalegh
Near a decade after the reign of Iranian Reform Administration, plans and projects of the ۱۱th administration, once again, resemble those of eight years ago. New administrative divisions have been on the news over the past few weeks. Administrative divisions plan was first proposed by Seyed Mohammad Khatami, but it never saw the light of the day and now, Hassan Rouhani is in pursuit of the long - standing reform project.
Near a decade after the reign of Iranian Reform Administration, plans and projects of the 11th administration, once again, resemble those of eight years ago. New administrative divisions have been on the news over the past few weeks. Administrative divisions plan was first proposed by Seyed Mohammad Khatami, but it never saw the light of the day and now, Hassan Rouhani is in pursuit of the long-standing reform project. On the occasion of the revival of administrative divisions plan, we had an interview with Morteza Mobalegh, deputy interior minister as follows.
President Rouhani recently broached the subject of administrative divisions; a sensitive topic also examined and explored by previous administrations. How much do we really need administrative divisions?
Regional division of the country is an old matter of discussion. At the time of Reform Administration, extensive scientific studies were conducted and the idea was put forward that the country can be divided into a number of large regions rather than having 28 or 31 provinces. Through the early administrative divisions plan, the country was set to be divided into 9 regions following precise scientific examinations of main water resources in line with territorial provisions as well as national security, political, social and economic considerations. Expectedly, the issue raised controversy and has been a bone of contention up until now. Examining the pros and cons of present provincial management versus larger regional divisions has long been a matter of debate. There's no denying that either plan has its own advantages and disadvantages, not to mention that any decision regarding new regional divisions need to well thought-out. The elimination of the present provincial division will certainly bring about extensive consequences for officials. Thus, they will probably turn to a third, intermediary option, which will have its own pros and cons and will need thorough considerations as well. Of course we can benefit from successful examples of other nations and expand our studies in this regard.
Administrative divisions plan is supposedly on the agenda of every Iranian administration. The idea was on the table at the time of Reform Administration and the now it is President Rouhani's turn to explore the plan in his first year of incumbency. Why is the significance of divisions plan?
Bear in mind that political and administrative revision in the form of provinces and regions is an essential issue in the country. It's because country's administration is an extremely sensitive issue by nature. Each and every state seeks a proper model of division that suits them the best. Iran has usually been a nation with centralized power in which, most of the political power has been concentrated in the capital. Considering scientific experiences over the past century, the need for centralized power in the country is very tangible, as it will increase people's contribution. Furthermore, administrative efficiency of the government will improve and most importantly, resources will be exploited more effectively. Therefore, any government and political party at the helm would seek better distribution of power for more effective administration.
Tell us about the similarities and differences of President Rouhani's plan in comparison with that of in Khatami's era.
What is important for the present administration the most is more constructive communication with municipalities and not administrative divisions. Such debates have been prevalent in previous administrations as well. It's not to mention that public summits of provincial governors were held alongside regional meetings. Similar provinces in terms of common attributes and difficulties held joint-meetings and explored various issues in order to reach conclusive solutions. So what we're talking about is not exactly reformation or reconstruction and not even a new method of administration, unless something special is going on and we're not aware of.
So the plans of the 11th administration have little to do with administrative divisions at the time of Reform Administration.
All the debates and discussions in Khatami's era were merely academic and never reached executive level. In order words, Reform Administration never attempted to put those findings into practice.
Speaking of administrative divisions plan, many find it similar to the system of countries with federated states, such as the US. Again, what are the similarities and differences of our plan with those of other nations?
The division plan we're speaking of is relatively similar to a federal structure and vastly different from as well. Federalism is and ill-suited solution for our society and a very risky one. In that case, we will need to establish partially self-governing states under a central government. Every nation needs a singular approach that best serves their needs. Federalism is not appropriate for our country. Besides differences, the two systems have similarities as well, since the distribution of power is important in both systems and regional (federal) governors are able to make quick and effective decisions. Furthermore, resources are better discovered and exploited. In fact, county government is a form of central government and by turning that into a federal government, governors will possess more comprehensive authority. Under both systems, you wouldn't need to go through all bureaucracy and waste precious time for every single issue. A federal system allows most decisions to be made within every region and that's arguably the biggest benefit of federation.
As the last question, do you think that the administrative divisions plan will be put into practice in near future?
Whatever decision regarding administrative divisions will require thorough understanding of country's present situation, unless we will trap ourselves in a pitfall. In case of more serious talks, all governing bodies of the country will undoubtedly participate in the debate, but reaching a solid conclusion with the agreement of all parties is currently a distant possibility; especially since the ill distribution of power in the country is by itself a hindrance. Moreover, we cannot disregard opposing parties and their demand for central power. As you know, reformists look forward to moving away from a centralized, while many are in conflict with this approach and even openly withstand it. There are numerous issues to be tackled before realizing the administrative divisions plan.