Iran country overview

Iran Government

Iran information index

Iran Government

Constitutional framework

Iran is a unified Islamic republic that operates under a single legislative body. The nation’s constitution, established in 1979, implemented a blended form of governance where the executive, parliament, and judiciary are supervised by various bodies predominantly composed of religious leaders. Leading both the state and the supervisory institutions is a highly ranked clergy member referred to as the rahbar, or leader. This individual holds responsibilities and authority typically associated with a head of state. The tone of the response text is professional.

Velāyat-e faqīh

The concept of velāyat-e faqīh, as explained by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, justifies Iran’s mixed system of government. In the absence of a divinely inspired imam, political leadership is given to the faqīh, or jurist in Islamic canon law, who possesses the necessary qualifications to lead the community. Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the revolution, was widely regarded as such a person, and his authority was established in the Iranian constitution. The Assembly of Experts, composed of experts in Islamic jurisprudence, selects the leader from qualified Shiʿi clergy based on their personal piety, expertise in Islamic law, and political skills. The leader holds extensive powers, including the appointment of senior military and Revolutionary Guards officers, as well as clerical members of the Council of Guardians and members of the judiciary. Additionally, the leader has sole responsibility for declaring war and serves as the commander in chief of Iran’s armed forces. Most importantly, the leader determines the general direction of the nation’s policies. While there are no term limits for the leader, the Assembly of Experts has the authority to remove the leader from office if they determine that he is unable to fulfill his duties.

Following the death of Khomeini in June 1989, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was elected as his successor by the Assembly of Experts. This decision was unexpected due to Khamenei’s lower clerical status at the time of his nomination. However, he eventually gained acceptance as an ayatollah through the support of senior clerics, which was a unique occurrence in Shiʿi Islam. Khamenei’s political acumen led to his elevation to the position of rahbar.

The presidency

The executive branch is headed by the president, who is elected through universal adult suffrage and must be a native-born Iranian Shiʿi. Initially, this position held mostly ceremonial duties until July 1989, when a constitutional amendment was approved through a national referendum. This amendment abolished the post of prime minister and granted the president greater authority. The president is responsible for selecting the Council of Ministers, which requires approval from the legislature. Additionally, the president appoints some members of the Committee to Determine the Expediency of the Islamic Order and serves as the chairman of the Supreme Council for National Security, which oversees the country’s defense. The president and their ministers are accountable for the day-to-day administration of the government and the implementation of laws passed by the legislature. Furthermore, the president has oversight over various government offices and organizations.

Deliberative bodies

The legislative body of Iran is known as the Majles, or the Islamic Consultative Assembly. It consists of 290 members who are elected directly for four-year terms through universal adult suffrage. The Majles is responsible for enacting all legislation and has the power to impeach the president with a two-thirds majority vote, albeit under extraordinary circumstances. Recognized religious and ethnic minorities are also given token representation in the legislature.

The Council of Guardians, composed of 12 members, serves as an upper legislative house. Half of its members are specialists in Islamic canon law appointed by the leader, while the other half are civil jurists nominated by the Supreme Judicial Council and appointed by the Majles. The council’s main role is to review all legislation passed by the Majles and determine its constitutionality. If a majority of the council finds a piece of legislation to be in violation of the constitution or contrary to Islamic law, they can strike it down or send it back to the Majles for revisions. Additionally, the council oversees elections and approves all candidates, including those running for the presidency.

In 1988, Khomeini established the Committee to Determine the Expediency of the Islamic Order. This committee, consisting of members from the Council of Guardians and those appointed by the president, acts as an arbitrator in case of disagreements between the Majles and the Council of Guardians. Lastly, the Assembly of Experts, made up of 88 clerics, was initially formed to draft the 1979 constitution. Its current role is to select a new leader in the event of the incumbent’s death or incapacity.

Local government

The provinces are divided into counties, districts, and townships. The appointment of governors-general and governors for provinces and counties, respectively, is done by the minister of the interior. A council exists at each level, and the Supreme Council of Provinces is composed of representatives from the provincial councils. The ministry of the interior appoints mayors for each city, while city council members are elected locally. Villages are governed by a village master who receives guidance from elders. The tone of the response text is professional.

Justice of Iran

The judiciary in the country comprises of a Supreme Court, a Supreme Judicial Council, and lower courts. The positions of chief justice and prosecutor general necessitate expertise in Shiʿi canon law and the attainment of mujtahid status. According to the 1979 constitution, all judges are obligated to base their decisions on sharia (Islamic law). In 1982, the Supreme Court invalidated any part of the law codes of the deposed monarchy that did not adhere to sharia. The Majles revised the penal code in 1983, establishing a system that fully embraced Islamic law in both form and content. This code introduced a range of traditional punishments, such as retributions (known as qiṣāṣ in Arabic) for murder and other violent crimes, wherein the closest relative of the victim may, with court approval, take the life of the perpetrator. Violent corporal punishments, including execution, have become mandatory for various offenses, including adultery and alcohol consumption. Since the revolution, the number of clergy members within the judiciary has increased, leading the state to establish a special court in 1987 outside of the regular judiciary to handle criminal cases involving clergy members.

Political process

According to the constitution, elections must be held every four years and are overseen by the Council of Guardians. Universal suffrage is granted, with a minimum voting age of 18. Important matters are subject to referenda.

There are numerous political parties, but they lack institutional strength. While the constitution guarantees freedom of association, parties that oppose the current system of government or its underlying ideology are not permitted. The Ministry of Interior approves and regulates party activities based on statutory regulations. Since the 1980s, political parties have had a relatively minor role in the political process.

Initially, the Islamic Republic Party became the ruling political party in post-revolutionary Iran. However, it proved to be unstable, and Khomeini disbanded it in 1987. The Muslim People’s Republic Party, led by Ayatollah Mohammad Kazem Shariat-Madari, opposed many of Khomeini’s reforms and the ruling party’s tactics in the early years of the Islamic republic. In 1981, it was also ordered to dissolve. The government also outlawed several early opposition parties, including the Tūdeh Party, the Mojāhedīn-e Khalq Party, and the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan.

Due to the absence of strong political parties, elections focus on personalities who are generally associated with one of three ideological camps. Principlists, also known as “conservatives,” adhere to the principles of the Islamic revolution and prioritize protecting Iranians from corrupting and foreign influences. Reformists aim to liberalize the political system and adopt a more cooperative approach to international relations. Political figures who do not align clearly with either camp are often considered “centrists” or “moderates.”

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