From the Assembly of Experts to the Guardian Council, learn about the complex process of electing the Supreme Leader of Iran.
The Supreme Leader
At the top of the hierarchy stands the Supreme Leader of Iran. As this position is considered a life tenure post, there have only been two supreme leaders since the formation of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Supreme Leader is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, and the Legislature, while the Executive and the Judiciary system all operate under his superintendence. In other terms he controls everything and everyone answers to him.
There’s also the Expediency Discernment Council which is responsible for advising the Supreme Leader. All of its 20 members are chosen by the Supreme Leader directly.
The Supreme Leader is chosen by the Assembly of Experts of the Leadership. The same assembly is responsible for removing the Supreme Leader of Iran as well as supervising his activities. It consists of 20 members and all are chosen by the direct vote of Iranian citizens every 8 years.
But do not be fooled! People only get to choose from an incredibly limited number of candidates, all of whom have to be approved of by the Guardian Council. We’ll talk about who the Guardian Council is further down the line, for now just keep track of the number of times the name of this council comes up!
Then there’s what’s known as the three main bodies of the power system; The Executive body, the Judicial body and the Legislature.
The Executive Body
First there’s the Executive body which consists primarily of the President and his ministers. The President of the Islamic Republic of Iran is chosen by the public vote of Iranian citizens every four years. The president’s responsibilities include signing treaties and other agreements with foreign countries and international organisations, as well as administering national planning, budget, and state employment affairs.
The power of the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran is fairly limited and all presidential candidates have to be approved by the Guardian Council! The ministers are appointed by the President himself, but the Islamic Consultative Assembly (the Legislation body) has to approve of the ministers.
The Judicial Body
Then there’s the Judicial body which is responsible for the implementation of justice. This body is entrusted with many duties such as investigating and passing judgement on violations of rights and complaints, supervising the proper enforcement of laws, and taking suitable measures to prevent crime.
The Chief of Justice (head of the Judicial System) gets elected directly by the Supreme Leader of Iran and is reelected every five years, however, it has to be noted that there is no limit to getting elected multiple times, even in a row.
And lastly there’s the Legislature which consists of two important departments: The Islamic Consultative Assembly and The Guardian Council. The Islamic Consultative Assembly is responsible for establishing new laws on all matters within the limits of the Constitution.
The Islamic Consultative Assembly currently has 290 representatives, all of whom are chosen by public vote, but all have to be approved of by the Guardian Council! The Guardian Council is also in charge of reviewing new legislation by the Consultative Assembly and to examine its compatibility with Islam and the Constitution.
The Guardian Council
So, finally we get to the Guardian Council. What, then, is this council that is in charge of approving all candidates, whether they are running for Presidency, the Islamic Consultative Assembly or the Assembly of Experts of the Leadership, before they are put to public vote? Surely this Council is chosen by the people themselves, right? Sadly the answer is a clear ‘No!’.
The Guardian Council consists of 12 members, six of whom are directly chosen by the Supreme Leader. The remaining six get elected by the Islamic Consultative Assembly, so through an indirect vote of the people, but all candidates have to be nominated by the Chief Justice of Iran, who is the head of the Judicial System. As mentioned before he is elected directly by the Supreme Leader!
So, in case you are as confused about this system, as I was when I was twelve, let’s do a recap! The Supreme Leader chooses six out of 12 of the members of the Guardian Council directly, and the other six indirectly through electing the head of the Judicial System, who then will nominate the candidates. The Guardian Council then nominates the candidates for the Assembly of Experts of the Leadership.
In other words, the Supreme Leader indirectly elects the only people that have power over dismissing him! This means that the circle of power is a closed one in Iran and all changes depend on the Supreme Leader.