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Political Institutions of Iran
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  1. Political Institutions of Iran A theocracy at work

  2. Political Parties • Constitution legalized political parties, but they were not allowed until Muhammad Khatami’s election (1997) • The Iranian Militant Clerics Society – left wing reform party led by Muhammad Khatami. • Khatami president from 1997-2005 • Several prominent politicians belong to this party including former Majlis speaker, and a vice-president • Candidate in 2005, Mehdi Karroubi, came in third • The Islamic Iran Participation Front – reformist party led by Khatami’s brother, Muhammad Reza Khatami • Founded in 1998, motto “Iran for all Iranians” • Did well in 2000 Majlis elections • Guardian Council barred many members from running in 2004 so membership declined

  3. Political Parties II • Executives of Construction Party – founded by several former cabinet members of President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani • Important supporter of Rafsanjani and his political platform • Rafsanjani lost election runoff to Ahmadinejad by a large margin • The Islamic Society of Engineers – member of the conservative alliance, party of current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who secured office in presidential election of 2005 • The “society” however did not support Ahmadinejad in the election, their candidate was Ali Larijani, who lost in first round

  4. Reformist Parties • Khordad Front (Alliance between Iranian Militant Clerics Society & Islamic Iran Participation Front) – the alliance helped win reelection for Khatami in 2000. • The Second Khordad Front did not survive in 2004 elections as Guardian Council banned many reformist candidates from Majlis elections • Liberation Movement – Moderate party, party founded by MehdiBazargan (Khomeini’s PM), in 1961 it was banned in 2002 as subversive organization • National Front – headed by Mossadeq in 1950, it was banned in late 1980s • Exile parties – Mojahedin (guerrilla group fought the shah); Fedayin (Marxist guerrillas modeled after Che Guevara); Tudeh (communist party)

  5. Elections • Citizens over 15 may vote • National elections held for the following: • Assembly of Religious Experts • Representative to the Majlis • President • Elections to Majlis and President are by plurality, winner-take all • Elections are done over two rounds • First round narrows field down to 2 candidates

  6. Elections II • Majlis Election of 2004 • Feb. 20, 2004 • Council of Guardians banned thousands of candidates from mostly reformist parties • Looking for loyalty to the “guardianship of the jurist” and ability to win • Out of a possible 285 seats (5 reserved for religious minorities) reformist could only introduce 191 candidates • 51% - Official voter turnout • Conservative candidates won 70% of seats • Presidential Election of 2005 • Khatami steps down after serving two terms • Guardian Council disqualifies about 1000 candidates • Only 7 candidates run • Akbar Hasemi Rafsanjani and MahmoudAhmadinejad • Rafsanjani received 21% of the vote compared to Ahmadinejad’s 19% in the first round • In second round runoff Ahmadinejad won with 62% of the vote • Rafsanjani suffered from being unable to organize reformist vote behind him

  7. Interest Groups • It is difficult to distinguish between parties and interest groups in Iran • Most exile parties have members in Iran that work for their benefit • Interest Groups • Islamic Association of Women • Green Coalition • Workers’ House • Interest group for factory workers, have a political party as well, Islamic Labor Party • Hold a May Day rally every year, turned into protest in 1999 against conservative policies to water-down labor laws

  8. Mass Media • During and shortly after revolution 27 newspapers in total were shut down • In 1981 Majlis passed law making it illegal to use “pen and speech” against the government • Some restrictions have been lifted • Rafsanjani government allowed for debate in press on some controversial issues • Khatami administration issued permits to new publications in attempt to establish independent press • Many newspapers and magazines privately owned

  9. Mass Media II • Freedom of Press still a major issue between conservatives and reformists • In 2002, some 60 pro-reform newspapers were shut down • Iran’s elite are well-educated, and private media cater to their needs and interests • Radio & TV are government-run, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) (Supreme Leader is head)

  10. Government Institutions • Jurist’s Guardianship • Supreme Leader • Guardian Council • Assembly of Religious Experts • Expediency Council • President & Cabinet • Majlis • Judicial Branch • Military

  11. Velayat-e faqih (Jurist’s guardianship) • The principle instituted by Khomeini of overarching authority for different government institutions: • Supreme Leader • Guardian Council • Assembly of Religious Experts • Expediency Council • This authority is all-encompassing and is over whole community based on their ability to understand shari’a and their commitment to champion the rights of the people

  12. Supreme Leader • Position created for Khomeini, currently held by Ali Khameini • Powers of Supreme Leader: • Elimination of presidential candidates • Dismissal of the president • Command armed forces • Declares war & peace • Appointment and removal of major administrators and judges • Nominates six members of Guardian Council • Appoints many non-governmental directors, such as radio/TV and semi-public foundations • Responsibilities of Supreme Leader: • faqih – he is the leading Islamic jurist to interpret shari’a and religious documents • Links three branches of government together • “Determining the interests of Islam”

  13. Guardian Council • 12 members • All Male • 6 members appointed by Supreme Leader • 6 members nominated by chief judge, approved by Majlis • Responsibilities • They represent theocratic principles within the government • Review bills passed by Majlis to ensure they conform with shari’a • Guardian Council and Supreme Leader together exercise principle of jurist’s guardianship (Make sure all democratic bodies adhere to Islamic laws & beliefs) • Power to decide who can compete in elections • In 2004 & 2005 disqualified thousands of candidates for both Majlis and presidential elections

  14. Assembly of Religious Experts • Expanded in 1989 to an 86 man house • Directly elected by the people • 4 year terms • Members originally required to have seminary degree equivalent to a master’s, 1998 revision now allows non-clerics to stand for Assembly – candidates still subject to approval by Council of Guardians • Responsibilities • Broad constitutional interpretation • Elected Khomeini’s successor (Khamenei) • Reserve right to remove supreme leader

  15. Expediency Council • Created by Khomeini • Main purpose to “referee” disputes between the Guardian Council and the Majlis • Began as a 13-member group including: president, chief judge, speaker of Majlis, and six jurists from the Guardian Council • 1989, Expediency Council passes some bills, and is institutionalized by constitutional amendments • Currently consists of 32 members • It may originate its own legislation • Not all members are clerics • Still appointed by Supreme Leader • Collectively most powerful men in Iran

  16. President & the Cabinet • Iran is not a presidential system, therefore the executive branch does not have the same authority as presidents in presidential systems such as U.S., Mexico, and Nigeria • President does represent highest official representing democratic principles in Iran • Chief executive, highest state official after Supreme Leader • Directly elected every 4 years • Constitution still requires the president to be a Shi’ite and uphold Islamic principles • All six presidents of the Islamic Republic have been clerics except for Abol-Hasan Bani-Sadr who was ousted in 1981 for criticizing the regime as a dictatorship

  17. President’s Power • Devising the Budget • Supervising economic matters • Proposing legislation to the Majlis • Executing policies • Signing of treaties, laws, and agreements • Chairing the National Security Council • Selecting vice presidents and cabinet ministers • Appointing provincial governors, town mayors, and ambassadors

  18. Cabinet’s Power • Conducts the day-to-day work of governance • Most new laws and the budget are initiated and devised by cabinet members • Then submitted to parliament for approval, modification, or rejection

  19. Bureaucracy • President heads up the bureaucracy that has doubled since 1979 • Provides jobs for high school and college graduates • Clergy dominates the bureaucracy, head ministers all clerics (Intelligence, Interior, Justice, Culture & Islamic Guidance) • Agencies • Culture and Islamic Guidance – censures media • Intelligence – chief security organization • Heavy Industry – manages factories • Reconstruction – expands social services and sees that Islam extends to countryside

  20. Semipublic Institutions • Theoretically autonomous • In reality they are directed by clerics appointed by the Supreme Leader • Usually called “foundations” (bonyads) • Foundation of the Oppressed • Martyrs Foundation • Foundation for the Publication of Imam Khomeini’s Works • Foundations are tax exempt • Reputed to have a great deal of wealth • Most property they supervise was confiscated from pre-1979 elite

  21. Legislature:MAJLIS • Unicameral legislature • Assembly of Religious Experts has served similar to an upper house since 1989 (Both groups are elected representatives) • Created by Constitution of 1906, however Constitution of 1979 and 1989 amendments weakened the Majlis power • 290 seats • All directly elected through single member districts by citizens over 15 years old

  22. Majlis Authority • Powers of Majlis • Enacting or Changing Laws (with approval of Guardian Council) • Interpretation of legislation (as long as it does not contradict judicial authorities) • Appointment of 6 of 12 Guardian Council members from list made by chief judge • Investigation of the cabinet ministers and public complaints against the executive and judiciary • Removal of cabinet ministers, but not the president • Approval of budget, cabinet appointments, treaties, & loans

  23. Majlis elections • Election of 2000 • Reformists fill seats through coalition of reformist parties (Khordad Front) • Reformists win 80% of the vote, most secular voters whose parties were banned supported the reformists. • Election of 2004 • Guardian Council bans thousands of reformist candidates • Overwhelming victory for conservatives • Control of the Majlis flips from the reformists to the conservative faction

  24. Judiciary • Distinction between two types of law: shari’a & qanun • Judicial review does not exist in Iran • Principle of jurist’s guardianship means that the Supreme Leader, the Guardian Council, and the Assembly of Religious Experts have final say regarding interpretation of law • Ultimate legal authority does not rest in the constitution, but in shari’a law itself • Because interpreting shari’a is difficult it has been applied in different ways at various times • Because of Ayatollah Khomeini interpretation of shari’a came to be the standard that would influence all succeeding Iranian leaders

  25. Judiciary II • Islamic Republic • Islamicized the judiciary code to interpret shari’a strictly • Retribution Law • Permitted families to demand “blood money” – compensation to the victim’s family from those responsible for someone’s death • Mandated the death penalty for actions such as adultery, homosexuality, drug dealing and alcoholism • Set up unequal treatment between men & women, and Muslims & non-Muslims • Banned interest rates on loans, viewed as usury, which means lenders take advantage of people seeking loans

  26. Law • Shari 'a • Islamic law • Considered to be foundation of all Islamic civilization • Embodies a vision of a community in which all Muslims are brothers and sisters subscribe to the same moral values • Shari’a supersedes all other law in Iranian society • Supreme leaders authority and the jurist’s guardianship based on importance of shari’a • Qunan • No sacred basis • Statutes passed by Majlis • “the People’s Law” • Can never contradict shari’a • Guardian Council & Supreme Leader must make sure all laws apply interpretations of shari’a

  27. Law & Justice • Khomeini realized that despite the influence of shari’a judges, the regime did need a centralized judicial system to tend to matters of justice in an orderly manner • The interpretation of shari’a was broadened so that the harsh penalties of the Retribution Law are rarely carried out • Modern methods of punishment are more common than harsh public retribution • Regime retained the shah’s court structure • Appeals system • Hierarchy of state courts • Central government’s right to appoint and dismiss judges

  28. Military • Revolutionary Guard – established by Khomeini after the revolution, a parallel military force to the shah’s traditional armed forces that were the 5th largest at the time • Commanders of the Revolutionary Guard are appointed by the Supreme Leader • According to the constitution, the regular army defends the borders, the Revolutionary Guard protects the republic • Both were greatly strained during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980’s • Basij – volunteer militia of those to young to serve created during Iran-Iraq War. • Martyred by Khomeini against the invading Iraqi troops • After the war they became the Supreme Leader’s private militia • Currently serve as the Islamic Republic’s “morality police” (Comparable to Hitler Nazi Youth) • Iran’s armed forces currently have over 500,000 active troops making it the 8th largest military in the world

  29. Theocratic & Democratic Elements of Iran’s Government Structure

  30. Theocratic & Democratic Elements of Iran’s Government Structure

  31. Public Policy:Policy-Making Factions • Conservatives • Created by often contradictory influences of theocracy & democracy • Conservatives uphold principles of regime established in 1979 • Against modernization because it threatens Shi’ism • Wary of western influence • Political & religious decision should be synonymous • Support right of clerics to run the political system • Reformists • Believe political system needs reform (but disagree on what reforms) • Advocate some degree of international involvement with western countries • Believe Shi’ism is important basis of Iranian society • Support idea that political leaders do not have to be clerics

  32. Public Policy:Policy-Making Factions II • Statists • Government should take active role in the economy • Not necessarily communists • Policy goals include: • Redistribute land • Redistribute wealth • Eliminate unemployment • Finance Social Welfare Programs • Price restrictions on Consumer goods • Free-marketers • Similar market principles to the US, but in a theocratic/democratic state • Liberal Economic Policies • Remove price controls • Lower business taxes • Encourage private enterprise • Balance the budget

  33. Public Policy • Majority of policy issues among factions stem from the “theocratic vs. democratic” debate • Policy issues have recently led to a drain of the “best & brightest” from Iran do to frustration with government • Policy-making factional disagreements over relationship with US & Economic issues

  34. US Relations • Reformists & Conservatives constantly disagree regarding diplomatic relations with the US • Ex: Following 9-11-01, President Khatami immediately offered his condolences to American people, but Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei forbid public debate about improving relations with US, and implied Americans brought the situation on themselves • Nuclear Weapons • For energy or defense?

  35. Economic Policy • Oil creates vertical divide among elites in Iran • Elites with close ties to the oil state vs. • Traditional sector of the clergy • Instability of Oil prices effects the economy of this rentier state • Attitudes toward supranational organizations (WTO, UN, World Bank) are mixed. Iran’s application for admittance to the WTO in 1996 rejected • Based on difficulties in making foreign investments in the country • US opposed Iran’s entry into WTO • Economic policy characterized by internal bickering • Ex: Bill drafted in 2002 by Majlis would have allowed foreigners to own as much as 100% of any firm in the country (up from 48%). The bill came from reformists, the bill was not approved by Guardian Council. Conservatives worry about influence of secular prosperity on Shi’ism