Iran’s complex political system

43ddmf Irans complex political system

43ddmf Irans complex political system



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The Iranian people will choose the man to replace Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on 24 June 2013. The country’s complex and unique political system has always raised questions about the extent of power, the president has as the highest publicly elected official and the second in command of the country.

The Iranian political system is a combination of unelected powerful institutions, controlled by the Supreme Leader, and elected officials such as the president and members of parliament.

Despite efforts by the Supreme Leader, the rift between those elected and unelected institutions have sometimes surfaced over the past two decades.

The below infographic illustrates the Iranian political system and the Supreme Leader’s circle of power.

Supreme Leader

The Supreme Leader holds the ultimate political and religious authority.

He appoints the heads of several influential organisations in the military, the government, and the judiciary. Although the president is elected by the public, the president-elect’s victory must be endorsed by the supreme leader.

The Supreme Leader appoints/dismisses:

- the chief of Staff of the Armed Forces

- the head of the judicial system

- the head of the radio and television network

- six members of the powerful 12-member Guardian Council

- the members of the Expediency Discernment Council

He has authority to:

- set major domestic and foreign policies

- dismiss the president

- pardon or reduce convicts’ sentences

- declare war and peace

- issue decrees for referendums


The President is the head of government and the highest publicly elected official.

Unlike many other countries, the president’s role is more administrative than executive. The president does not have full authority over foreign policy, the armed forces or national security matters including the nuclear issue.

The president is elected for a four-year term, limited to two consecutive terms, by direct public vote of the public, but presidential candidates are vetted by the Guardian Council.

The president selects Cabinet members but they must be approved by parliament.
Guardian Council

It is made up of twelve members. The Supreme Leader appoints six and the Parliament appoints the other half. The Council has to approve all bills passed by parliament and it has vetoing power over the bills passed by the parliament. It is charged with approving candidates for presidential, parliamentary. and the Assembly of Experts elections.


Members of parliament are elected every four years by direct popular vote. The candidates must be vetted by the powerful Guardian Council. Ironically, half of the council members must be approved by the parliament.

Members of parliament propose and pass legislation to be approved by the Guardian Council.

Members can summon or impeach ministers or the president. The ministers have to be approved by members of parliament through confidence votes.

Assembly of Experts:

The Assembly of Experts is in fact the assembly of high clerics whose members are elected by direct popular vote every eight years.

Member of this assembly are supposed to monitor the performance of the supreme leader and to remove him if he is deemed incapable or corrupted. However, in reality it has been proven to be very unlikely as their half-yearly meetings are more ceremonial than anything else.

Another twist of power exists in the election process for this assembly. While, its main duty is supervising the Supreme Leader, the candidates for this assembly are vetted by the Guardian Council, half of whose members are appointed by the Supreme Leader.

Expediency Council:

It is an administrative assembly set up to resolve deadlocks and conflicts between the Parliament and the Guardian Council.

The majority of its members are appointed by the Supreme Leader. Other members include some officials such as president, speaker of parliament, and judiciary chief.

The council also acts as an advisory body for the Supreme Leader on domestic and foreign policies.

Armed Forces:

Iran’s armed forces include the regular army forces and the Revolutionary Guard which are under a joint general command.

The Supreme Leader acts as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces who appoint

all major army and Revolutionary Guard commanders. They have to report to the Supreme Leader.

The Revolutionary Guard is not limited to military activities, but it has been continuously expanding its presence in other fields such as the economy and intelligence.

The Revolutionary Guard also oversees the Basij Resistance Force, a volunteer paramilitary organisation which has branches in virtually every town.


The judiciary is constitutionally an independent power, however, its independence has always been arguable by critics.

The head of the judiciary is appointed by, and reports to, the Supreme Leader. This means that the judiciary is effectively controlled by the Supreme Leader.

The judiciary enforces Islamic laws by drafting judiciary bills for parliament.

The Minister of Justice is a member of cabinet who is chosen by the president from a list of candidates proposed by the head of the judiciary.

TV and Radio

IRIB, the public broadcasting corporation of Iran, is a giant state-owned corporation in charge of radio and television. It has the exclusive right to broadcast in Iran.

With tens of thousands of employees and tens of TV and radio networks, IRIB is among the largest media organisations in the Asia and Pacific region.

The head of IRIB is appointed by the Supreme Leader.

Friday Prayers

The Friday prayer leaders call the faithful to Friday prayers in almost every town.

The leaders are appointed directly by the Supreme Leader or through the Secretariat of Friday Imams in all the cities.

The Supreme Leader can extend his religious influence to the grassroots of society through the appointment of Friday Prayers leaders.


Eligible voters can directly elect their representatives in presidential, parliament, and the Assembly of Experts elections.

All candidates in the elections are vetted by the Guardian Council.

The Supreme Leader is not elected directly by popular vote. However, the public can indirectly play a role in the process of selection or dismissal of the Supreme Leader through the Assembly of Experts, which is an elected house. Nevertheless, in reality it seems very unlikely that the house would exercise its right to supervise or dismiss the Supreme Leader.
All Iranian nationals above 18 years of age are eligible to vote in presidential elections.

By: Mohammad Mohammadi for euronews

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