Politics of Iran: Wikis


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The politics of Iran takes place in framework of a republic with an Islamic ideology. The December 1979 constitution, and its 1989 amendment, define the political, economic, and social order of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It declares that Shi'a Islam of the Twelver school of thought is Iran's official religion.

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei CCA 4 June 1955
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ABII 10 August 2005


Political conditions

As in almost all revolutions, the early days of the regime were characterized by political turmoil. In November 1979 the American embassy was seized and its occupants taken hostage and kept captive for 444 days. The eight year Iran–Iraq War killed hundreds of thousands and cost the country billions of dollars. By mid-1982, a succession of power struggles eliminated first the center of the political spectrum and then the leftists[1][2][3] leaving the Ayatollah Khomeini and his supporters in power.

Iran's post-revolution challenges have included the imposition of economic sanctions and suspension of diplomatic relations with Iran by the United States because of the hostage crisis and other acts of terrorism that the U.S. government and some others have accused Iran of sponsoring. Emigration has cost Iran "two to four million entrepreneurs, professionals, technicians, and skilled craftspeople (and their capital)." [4][5] For this and other reasons Iran's economy has not prospered. Poverty rose in absolute terms by nearly 45% during the first 6 years of the Islamic revolution [6] and per capita income has yet to reach pre-revolutionary levels.[7][8]

The Islamic Republic Party was Iran's ruling political party and for some years its only political party until its dissolution in 1987. Iran had no functioning political parties until the Executives of Construction Party formed in 1994 to run for the fifth parliamentary elections, mainly out of executive body of the government close to the then-president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani. After the election of Mohammad Khatami in 1997, more parties started to work, mostly of the reformist movement and opposed by hard-liners. This led to incorporation and official activity of many other groups, including hard-liners. The Iranian Government is opposed by a few armed political groups, including the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, the People's Fedayeen, and the Kurdish Democratic Party.

For other political parties see List of political parties in Iran.

Supreme Leader

Although he remains aloof from the competition of politics, the most powerful political office in the Islamic Republic is that of the Supreme Leader, of which there have been two: the founder of the Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and his successor, Ali Khamenei.

The Leader appoints the heads of many powerful posts - the commanders of the armed forces, the director of the national radio and television network, the heads of the major religious foundations, the prayer leaders in city mosques, and the members of national security councils dealing with defence and foreign affairs. He also appoints the chief judge, the chief prosecutor, special tribunals and, with the help of the chief judge, half of the 12 jurists of the Guardian Council – the powerful body that decides both what bills may become law and who may run for president or parliament.[9]

Executive branch

The Constitution defines the President as the highest state authority after the Supreme Leader. The President is elected by universal suffrage, by those 18 years old and older[1], for a term of four years. Presidential candidates must be approved by the Council of Guardians prior to running. The President is responsible for the implementation of the Constitution and for the exercise of executive powers, except for matters directly related to the Supreme Leader. The President appoints and supervises the Council of Ministers, coordinates government decisions, and selects government policies to be placed before the legislature. Currently, 10 Vice-Presidents serve under the President, as well as a cabinet of 21 ministers, who must all be approved by the legislature. Unlike many other states, the executive branch in Iran does not control the armed forces. Although the President appoints the Ministers of Intelligence and Defense, it is customary for the President to obtain explicit approval from the Supreme Leader for these two ministers before presenting them to the legislature for a vote of confidence.

Legislative branch

The current legislature of Iran is unicameral. Before the Iranian Revolution, the legislature was bicameral, with the senate (upper house) half elected, half appointed by the Shah. The senate was removed in the new constitution.



The Parliament of Iran comprises 290 members elected for four-year terms. The Parliament drafts legislation, ratifies international treaties, and approves the national budget. All Parliament candidates and all legislation from the assembly must be approved by the Council of Guardians.

Guardian Council

The Guardian Council is composed of 12 jurists, including six clerics appointed by the Supreme Leader, and six jurists elected by the Majles from among the Muslim jurists nominated by the Head of the Judicial System. The Council interprets the constitution and may reject bills from parliament deemed incompatible with the constitution or Sharia (Islamic law). These are referred back to parliament for revision. In a controversial exercise of its authority, the Council has drawn upon a narrow interpretation of Iran's constitution to veto parliamentary candidates.[citation needed]

As of the early 1990s, the Guardian Council vets (approves) candidates for national election in Iran.[citation needed]

According to the CIA World Factbook, The Guardian Council is a part of the Executive branch of the government.[2]

Expediency Council

The Expediency Council has the authority to mediate disputes between the Majlis and the Council of Guardians, and serves as an advisory body to the Supreme Leader, making it one of the most powerful governing bodies in the country.

The council also mediates legislative disputes between the parliament and the Guardian Council. Its members include heads of the three government branches, the clerical members of the Guardian Council and various other members appointed by the supreme leader for three-year terms. Cabinet members and parliamentary leaders also serve as temporary members when issues under their jurisdictions are under review. [10]

Judicial branch

The Supreme Leader appoints the head of the Judiciary, who in turn appoints the head of the supreme court and the chief public prosecutor. There are several types of courts including public courts that deal with civil and criminal cases, and "revolutionary courts" which deal with certain categories of offenses, including crimes against national security. The decisions of the revolutionary courts are final and cannot be appealed. The Special Clerical Court handles crimes allegedly committed by clerics, although it has also taken on cases involving lay people. The Special Clerical Court functions independently of the regular judicial framework and is accountable only to the Supreme Leader. The Court’s rulings are final and cannot be appealed. It has also been known to organizations such as the United Nations and the World Criminal Court that a very complex system of bribery has developed because of the high crime rate.

Assembly of Experts

The Assembly of Experts, which meets for at least two days, twice annually,[11] comprises 86 "virtuous and learned" clerics elected by adult suffrage for eight-year terms. Based on the laws approved by the first Assembly, the Council of Guardians has to determine candidates' eligibility using a written examination. The Assembly elects the Supreme Leader and has the constitutional authority to remove the Supreme Leader from power at any time. As all of their meetings and notes are strictly confidential, the Assembly has never been known to challenge any of the Supreme Leader's decisions.

Political parties and elections

Party Candidate Votes Percentage
Alliance of Builders Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (inc.) 24,527,516 62.63%
Independent Reformist Mir-Hossein Mousavi 13,216,411 33.75%
Independent Conservative Mohsen Rezaee 678,240 1.73%
National Trust Mehdi Karroubi 333,635 0.85%
Valid votes 38,755,802 98.95%
Blank or invalid votes 409,389 1.05%
Totals 39,165,191 100.00%
Voter turnout 85%
Sources: Ministry of Interior of Iran[12]
More info: Iranian presidential election, 2009

For the parliamentary elections of February 20, 2004, the Ministry of Interior Affairs announced a 50% turnout, the lowest in any general election since 1979. It was disputed by the Guardian Council, which claimed the result was closer to 60%. Conservative forces received 54% (156 seats), reformists received 14% of the vote (40 seats), and independents (34 seats); 60 seats were up for runoff election in May 2004. In the run-up to the election many reformist candidates, including about 80 members of the outgoing parliament, were disqualified by the Guardian Council; more than a 100 MPs protested by staging a sit-in in the parliament that lasted for about 3 weeks and ended to no avail. About 120 MPs then resigned and major reformist parties and groups stated they will not take part in the election but did not boycott it. The crisis resulted in a crack in the reformist front, when the Militant Clerics League, of which President Khatami is a member, announced they will participate in the election.

e • d Summary of 14 March/25 April 2008 Parliament of Iran election results
Orientiation of candidates Seats (1st rd.) Seats (2nd rd.) Seats (Total)
Conservatives 132 38 170
Reformists 61 15 86
Independents 20 19 39
Armenians recognized minority religion 2 2
Assyrian and Chaldean (Catholic) recognized minority religion 1 1
Jewish recognized minority religion 1 1
Zoroastrian recognized minority religion 1 1
Total (Turnout: 60%) 208 82 290
Source: IPU
More info: Iranian legislative election, 2008

Political pressure groups and leaders

Active student groups include the pro-reform "Office for Strengthening Unity" and "the Union of Islamic Student Societies';

  • Groups that generally support the Islamic Republic include Ansar-e Hizballah, The Iranian Islamic Students Association, Muslim Students Following the Line of the Imam, Islam's Students, and the Islamic Coalition Association. The conservative power base is said to be made up of a "web of Basiji militia members, families of war martyrs, some members of the Revolutionary Guard, some government employees, some members of the urban and rural poor, and conservative-linked foundations."[13]
  • opposition groups include the Liberation Movement of Iran and the Nation of Iran party;
  • armed political groups that have been almost completely repressed by the government include Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK), People's Fedayeen, Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan; the Society for the Defense of Freedom.

Iranian opposition groups have been severely repressed by the regime, an example being the Freedom party of Iran that is now "forbidden". Repression of opposition groups is becoming more harsh as of mid 2007.[14] Exile parties however, are not controlled by the regime and are becoming stronger and more well recognised.[citation needed]


The military is charged with defending Iran's borders, while the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (a.k.a. Sepah) and Basiji are charged with maintaining internal security and controlling the civilian population

Administrative divisions

Iran consists of 30 provinces (ostaan-haa, singular: ostan): Ardabil, Azarbayjan-e Gharbi, Azarbayjan-e Sharqi, Bushehr, Chahar Mahall va Bakhtiari, Esfahan, Fars, Gilan, Golestan, Hamadan, Hormozgan, Ilam, Kerman, Kermanshahan, North Khorasan, Khorasan, South Khorasan, Khuzestan, Kohkiluyeh va Buyer Ahmadi, Kordestan, Lorestan, Markazi, Mazandaran, Qom, Qazvin, Semnan, Sistan va Baluchestan, Tehran, Yazd, Zanjan. The provinces are each headed by a governor general. The provinces are further divided into counties, districts, and villages.

Local government

Local councils are elected by public vote to 4-year terms in all cities and villages of Iran. According to article 7 in Iran's Constitution, these local councils together with the Parliament are "decision-making and administrative organs of the State". This section of the constitution was not implemented until 1999 when the first local council elections were held across the country. Councils have many different responsibilities including electing mayors, supervising the activities of municipalities; studying the social, cultural, educational, health, economic, and welfare requirements of their constituencies; planning and coordinating national participation in the implementation of social, economic, constructive, cultural, educational and other welfare affairs.

Complexity of the system

Iran's complex and unusual political system combines elements of a modern Islamic theocracy with democracy. A network of elected and unelected institutions influence each other in the government's power structure.

According to current election laws, the Guardian Council oversees and approves electoral candidates for most national elections in Iran. The Guardian Council has 12 members, six clerics, appointed by the Supreme Leader and six jurists, elected by the Majlis from among the Muslim jurists nominated by the Head of the Judicial System, who is appointed by the Supreme Leader. According to the current law, the Guardian Council approves the Assembly of Experts candidates, which in turn supervise and elect the Supreme Leader

The reformists say this system creates a closed circle of power.[15] Iranian reformists, such as Mohammad-Ali Abtahi have considered this to be the core legal obstacle for the reform movement in Iran.[16][17][18][19][20]

International organization participation

CP, ECO, ESCAP, FAO, G-15, G-24, G-77, GECF, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, International Maritime Organization, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, NAM, OIC, OPCW, OPEC, PCA, SCO (observer), UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WCO WFTU, WEF, WHO, WMO, WTO (observer)

See also


  1. ^ Moin, Khomeini (2001), p.21-234
  2. ^ Arjomand, Said Amir, The Turban for the Crown : The Islamic Revolution in Iran, Oxford University Press, c1988, p.144
  3. ^ Bakhash, Shaul, Reign of the Ayatollahs : Iran and the Islamic Revolution by Shaul, Bakhash, Basic Books, c1984 p.158-9
  4. ^ Iran's Economic Morass: Mismanagement and Decline under the Islamic Republic ISBN 0-944029-67-1
  5. ^ Huge cost of Iranian brain drain By Frances Harrison
  6. ^ Based on the government's own Planning and Budget Organization statistics, from: Jahangir Amuzegar, `The Iranian Economy before and after the Revolution,` Middle East Journal 46, n.3 (summer 1992): 421)
  7. ^ Low reached in 1995, from: Mackey, Iranians, 1996, p. 366.
  8. ^ "According to World Bank figures, which take 1974 as 100, per capita GDP went from a high of 115 in 1976 to a low of 60 in 1988, the year war with Iraq ended ..." (Keddie, Modern Iran, 2003, p.274)
  9. ^ "Who's in Charge?" by Ervand Abrahamian London Review of Books, 6 November 2008
  10. ^ U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Iran Chamber Society: "The Structure of Power in Iran," BBC: "Iran: Who Holds the Power?"
  11. ^ Khobregan - Ashnaee
  12. ^ "نتایج نهایی دهمین دورهٔ انتخابات ریاست جمهوری" (in Persian). Ministry of Interior of Iran. 2009-06-13. http://moi.ir/Portal/Home/ShowPage.aspx?Object=News&CategoryID=832a711b-95fe-4505-8aa3-38f5e17309c9&LayoutID=dd8faff4-f71b-4c65-9aef-a1b6d0160be3&ID=5e30ab89-e376-434b-813f-8c22255158e1. Retrieved 2009-06-27. 
  13. ^ Molavi, Afshin, The Soul of Iran, Norton, (2005), p.353
  14. ^ Iran has recently intensified its harassment of critics and people it deems threatening to the government, July 17, 2007
  15. ^ Mojahedin-enghelab
  16. ^ Mohammad Ali Abtahi - Weblog
  17. ^ Mohammad Ali Abtahi - Weblog
  18. ^ Mohammad Ali Abtahi - Weblog
  19. ^ Mohammad Ali Abtahi - Media - Articles
  20. ^ Mohammad Ali Abtahi - Weblog


  • Ray Takeyh: Hidden Iran - Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, New York 2006, ISBN 978-0-8050-7976-0

External links

Government Ministries of Iran

Other government links




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