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World > Middle East > Iran > Government and Political Conditions (Notes)

Iran - Government and Political Conditions (Notes)


GOVERNMENT
The December 1979 Iranian constitution defines the political, economic, and social order of the Islamic republic. The document establishes Shi'a Islam of the Twelver (Jaafari) sect as Iran's official religion. Sunni Islam, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Christianity are the only other recognized, legal minority religions. The country is governed by secular and religious leaders through governing bodies, whose duties often overlap.


The Supreme Leader holds power for life unless removed by the Assembly of Experts. He has final say on all domestic, foreign, and security policies for Iran, though he establishes and supervises those policies in consultation with the Expediency Council. The Leader is the final arbiter on all differences or disputes among the various branches of government. He appoints officials to key positions including the head of judiciary and the 12 members of the Guardian Council (six directly, six indirectly). He has power to remove the president and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces.


The constitution stipulates that the Assembly of Experts, which currently consists of the 86 popularly-elected clerics elected to 8-year terms, chooses the Supreme Leader based on jurisprudent qualifications and commitment to the principles of the revolution. The Assembly of Experts reviews his performance periodically and has the power to depose and replace him. Pragmatic conservative candidates generally polled better than their hardline conservative opponents during the December 15, 2006 elections to the Assembly of Experts. (Turnout for this vote, which coincided with municipal council elections, was quite high, topping 60%.) Citizens will not vote for representatives to the Assembly again until 2014.


The Council of Guardians consists of 12 persons. The Supreme Leader appoints the six religious members of the Council of Guardians while the Iranian parliament, the Majles, selects the six lay members from candidates recommended by the judiciary, which is in turn selected by the Supreme Leader. The non-clerics play a role only in determining whether legislation before the Majles conforms to Iran's constitution. The religious members, on the other hand, take part in all deliberations, considering all bills for conformity to Islamic principles. The Council of Guardians can veto any law. This body also certifies the competence of candidates for the presidency, the Assembly of Experts, and the Majles.


The president of the Islamic Republic of Iran is elected by universal suffrage to a 4-year term. The president supervises the affairs of the executive branch, appointing and supervising the Council of Ministers (members of the cabinet), coordinating government decisions, and selecting government policies to be placed before the National Assembly.


The Majles, or National Assembly, consists of 290 members elected to 4-year terms. The members of the legislature are elected by direct and secret ballot from among the candidates approved by the Council of Guardians.


In 1988, Ayatollah Khomeini created the Council for Expediency, which resolves legislative issues on which the Majles and the Council of Guardians fail to reach an agreement. Since 1989, it has been used to advise the national religious leader on matters of national policy as well. It is composed of the president, the speaker of the Majles, the judiciary chief, the clerical members of the Council of Guardians, and other members appointed by the Supreme Leader for 3-year terms. Cabinet members and Majles committee chairs also serve as temporary members when issues under their jurisdictions are considered. In 2005, it was announced that the Expediency Council, which now has over 40 members, would have responsibility for general supervision of the system, though that has not resulted in any noticeable change in this institution's day-to-day authority or operations.


Judicial authority is constitutionally vested in the Supreme Court and the four-member High Council of the Judiciary; these are two separate groups with overlapping responsibilities and have one head. Together, they are responsible for supervising the enforcement of all laws and for establishing judicial and legal policies.


Iran has two military forces. The national military is charged with defending Iran's borders, while the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is charged mainly with maintaining internal security.


Iran has 30 provinces managed by an appointed governor general. The provinces are further divided into counties, districts, and villages. Sixty percent of eligible voters took part in the first ever municipal and local council elections in 1999, though a lower percentage went to the polls in the second round in 2003. Turnout during the December 15, 2006 elections, during which citizens also elected Assembly of Expert representatives, was over 60%. The local councils select mayors.


Principal Government Officials
Leader of the Islamic Revolution--Ali Hosseini-Khamenei
President--Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad
First Vice President--Parviz Davudi
Foreign Minister--Manouchehr Mottaki
Ambassador to the United Nations--Mohammad Javad Zarif


Facts at a Glance: Geography - People - Government - Economy - Communications - Transportation - Military - Climate - Current Time - Ranking Positions
Notes and Commentary: People - Economy - Government and Political Conditions - Historical Highlights - Foreign Relations - Relations with U.S.



Facts at a Glance
Geography
People
Government
Economy
Communications
Transportation
Military
Climate
Current Time
Ranking Positions


Notes and Commentary
People
Economy
Government and Political Conditions
Historical Highlights
Foreign Relations
Relations with U.S.





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