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Is Iran’s supreme leader subject to oversight?

Clerics attend the biannual meeting of Iran’s Assembly of Experts in Tehran, March 6, 2012. (photo by REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi)

Ali Motahari, an outspoken member of the Iranian parliament and son of the noted Islamic scholar Ayatollah Morteza Motahari (1920-79), openly accused the Assembly of Experts of negligence. Motahari argued that the body, consisting of 86 elected Islamic scholars, is responsible for overseeing the actions of Iran’s supreme leader.

“We do not have individuals above criticism in the country,” he said. “The responsibility of the Assembly of Experts is to supervise theperformance of the supreme leader and his subordinates, but we haven’t seen them approaching this subject.”

Ayatollah Ahmad Alamolhoda, Mashhad’s Friday prayer leader and a member of the assembly, fiercely countered Motahari’s assertions, saying, “The Assembly of Leadership Experts cannot supervise the leader’s performance because the leader [the guardian jurist] is the guardian of all [of us], and experts cannot supervise the performance of their own guardian … The leader is the guardian, and the experts are subjects of the authority … How can I supervise his actions when he is my guardian?”

Ayatollah Khamenei’s view

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has expressed two positions on this issue of supervision. In a 2000 gathering of university professors and students, he remarked, “No one is above supervision. Even the leader is not above supervision, let alone the organizations linked to the leader … Government by its very nature entails the accumulation of power and wealth. … As a result, they must be supervised. It is necessary to supervise government officials to make sure they resist their temptations and avoid corruption and misuse of public funds.”

In a 2006 interview, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, head of the powerful Guardians Council and a member of the Assembly of Experts, explained that the assembly had decided to establish a number of committees to supervise the supreme leader’s subordinates. These committees covered various categories, including the judiciary and defense establishment in addition to national radio and television, among others. Jannati said the committees were necessary to determine whether the organizational conditions required of the leader, including administrative capabilities, were sufficient. The assembly took its findings to Ayatollah Khamenei.

Jannati said, “We had several meetings with the leader and discussed the issue, [and] he was not agreeable [to the idea].” According to him, Khamenei said, “You have to examine my performance, not my subsidiaries‘. “[If you conclude that] I have lost prudence … then you can take action.”

Then, in February 2012, Abbas Nabavi, a cleric with close ties to the influential and hard-line Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah Yazdi, revealed additional comments by Khamenei regarding supervision. In a letter to the Assembly of Experts, Khamenei said, “Supervision must begin from the point of the presence of the conditions required for leadership. First you should examine to see whether the leader continues to have the requirements [as stipulated in Article 109 of the constitution] or not. If the answer is yes, then I do not accept that you should go into the minute details. If the answer is no, then you must provide the reasons, and, for example, say that a specific condition is not fulfilled.”

Based on this statement, Khamenei in general accepts the idea of supervision of the leader by the assembly. He limits it, however, to whether the requirements of the leader are being maintained. According to Article 109, the essential qualifications of the supreme leader are justice and piety, political and social discernment, prudence, courage and administrative capability.

Legal and religious arguments

Chapter 8, Article 111, of the Iranian Constitution reads: “Whenever the leader becomes incapable of fulfilling his constitutional duties, or lobs one of the qualifications mentioned in articles 5 and 109, or it becomes known that he did not possess some of the qualifications initially, he will be dismissed. The authority of determination in this matter is vested with the experts specified in Article 108.”

Many clerics support Ayatollah Khamenei’s argument that Article 111 does not imply micro-supervision. Rather, they maintain that the text only authorizes macro-level examination of the supreme leader’s capabilities in general.

The oversight issue had been raised and discussed in 1989 during meetings of the Assembly for Revising the Constitution, a panel of 25 members tasked by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini with preparing the draft of amendments to the constitution for a general referendum. Many on the panel, including Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini, were against the idea of the supreme leader being left to rule unsupervised. “No, really, how can the experts not supervise the performance of the leader and all of a sudden decide to dismiss him?”

According to the internal regulations of the Assembly of Experts, the seven-member Committee for Investigating and Supervising the Leader is tasked with providing advice to the supreme leader and with supervising the conditions and comportment of the leader on a continual basis. The committee reports to the assembly’s presiding board and, if two-thirds of the board and committee members agree, the assembly members are called for an extraordinary session to discuss whether it should take action with respect to the leader.

Despite this oversight mechanism, the supreme leader can, based on his understanding of the reality of day-to-day politics, potentially nullify decisions by the assembly, as Khamenei did in the case of the subcommittees. Some may argue that Iran’s leader uses his authority to influence the assembly’s decisions because the constitution’s Article 57 places all three branches of the government — the executive, legislative and judiciary — “under the purview of the absolute rule and leadership” of the supreme leader. One could counter, however, that the Assembly of Experts is not under the jurisdiction of any branch and is, therefore, not subject to his oversight.

According to Iran’s official religion, Twelver Shiism, no one, excluding the Prophet Muhammad, his daughter and the twelve Imams, is divinely free from error and sin. This principle, with the recognition that the leader himself is not immune from sin and error, is said to justify oversight by the Assembly of Experts. The effect of this principle also appears in Article 107, which states: „The leader is equal with the rest of the people of the country in the eyes of law.”

Ayatollah Khamenei, however, speaking on the extent of the authority of the guardian jurist in a fatwa, said, “According to Shiism, all Muslims have to obey the order of the guardian jurist and submit to his commands. This edict even applies to other grand ayatollahs, let alone their followers.” The vision outlined in this fatwa potentially neutralizes religious arguments supporting the leader’s supervision.

Conclusion

Against those who assert that the leader cannot be supervised because subjects cannot supervise their guardian, one could argue that Ayatollah Khamenei has stated that he does not reject supervision. In addition, oversight is, under Article 111’s description of the Assembly of Experts‘ role, constitutionally enshrined. Also, given the widely held religious principle that no individual escapes sin and error, no religious obstacle remains in justifying the leader’s supervision. Nevertheless, Ayatollah Khamenei’s interpretation of the role of the guardian jurist may supersede arguments supporting supervision.

Source: AI-Monitor

Election: Diverse Iranian Press Reaction

      The Iranian press issued both praise and warnings after the election of Hassan Rouhani. In their editorials, reformist publications said the victory by a moderate cleric reflected a rejection of the status quo in politics, the economy and foreign policy. Newspapers heralded the beginning of a new era. The conservative press said the high turnout proved the popularity and legitimacy of Iran’s unique form of theocratic rule and the “ineffectiveness” of sanctions. But hardline commentators also warned that the stunning outcome did not mean Iran would accept “foreign hegemony.” The following is a collection of editorials translated by the BBC Monitoring Service.

Editorial in reformist daily Mardom Salari
            „The vote for Hassan Rouhani is a sign that people reject the current state of affairs and want to remove power from the fundamentalists… It was a vote for his two great supporters, [disqualified candidates] Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami… The other main message is the public’s interest in changing the way nuclear negotiations are carried out.“
Commentary in reformist daily E’temad
            „People have shown that they disagree with the country’s foreign policy over the last eight years, which has led to four [UN] resolutions against Iran… Dissatisfaction over the disqualification of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani also gave a boost to Rouhani.“
Commentary in reformist daily E’temad
            „A new political landscape has been created… This opportunity could result in political prisoners being freed and the lifting of the siege on [reformist] presidential election candidates from 2009 and basic steps toward reforming the economy.“
Commentary in reformist daily Bahar
            „Even reformism is going toward moderation and the centre… Both sides must move toward the centre and protect the country’s political atmosphere from radicalisation.“
Commentary in reformist daily Sharq
            „The new president must take control of the economic plan… and start the engine of production, employment, and growth.“
Commentary in reformist daily Sharq
            Conservatives „should not be dissatisfied with this outcome, because the dominant discourse in the election was that of moderation, which is also among their main objectives.“
Editorial in moderate daily Aman
            „The economic burden on the have-nots, unprecedented unemployment and price increases are among the reasons for the high turnout. The impact of economic sanctions is key. It seems that people voted for Rouhani to express their wish for moderate, peaceful policies.“
Editorial in hardline conservative daily Jomhuri-ye Eslami
            The vote represents „the acceptance of moderation and the rejection of extremist thought… Moderation does not mean accepting international hegemony and ignoring the rights of the Iranian nation.“
Commentary in hardline conservative daily Javan
            „The Islamic Republic has passed this election test in a proper way… The winner should learn from the Ahmadinejad years and the reformist era and not follow the same path. Rather, he should address the concerns of the people.“
Commentary in hardline conservative daily Keyhan
            „Enemy think tanks are in a spin… Their mistake was in ignoring the depth of the people’s belief in the Islamic System… The election proved the ineffectiveness of sanctions… [It] also showed the world that there was no vote rigging and fraud in the free elections.“
Editorial in conservative daily Khorasan
            „The participation of 72.7% of eligible voters indicates that the people followed the Supreme Leader’s [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] call for an epic political act to protect the country and the Islamic system.“

 

Gerald Tan explains Iran’s political power structure

Voters are going to the polls to elect a new president in Iran.More than 50 million people are eligible to vote.Whoever wins the election will be president in name but he will also be part of a complex leadership hierarchy.That’s because Iran has a Supreme Leader – as well as a president. Al Jazeera’s Gerald Tan explains the balance of power in Iran’s political system.

 

Guide To Iran’s June 2013 Presidential Election

  • THE PROCESS
  • FROM INITIAL MANEUVERS TO FORMAL CANDIDACY
  • FORMAL DECLARATIONS AND GUARDIAN COUNCIL VETTING
  • CAMPAIGNING AND VOTE
  • THE FACTIONS
  • THE SUPREME LEADER’S CAMP
  • THE PRINCIPLIST COMMITTEE OF FIVE
  • THE AHMADINEJAD CAMP
  • THE ENDURANCE FRONT
  • THE RAFSANJANI CAMP
  • OTHER CONSERVATIVES AND PRINCIPLISTS
  • THE REFORMIST CAMP

THE PROCESS

The Iranian Presidential election takes place in three anchors: one unofficial and two official, leading to the vote on 14 June.

FROM INITIAL MANEUVERS TO FORMAL CANDIDACY

Months of maneuvering for position preceded the hopefuls‘ formal declaration of their intention to stand this week.

This year, the jockeying has involved tensions between the 2+1 coalition — which has sought but so far not decided upon a „unity“ candidate — and the more than 20 presidential hopefuls, including many conservatives and principlists, who have declared their aspiration to stand. By April, no less than seven different factions had emerged.

FORMAL DECLARATIONS AND GUARDIAN COUNCIL VETTING

The first official anchor of the election is from 7-11 May, when presidential hopefuls formally register their names for consideration by the Guardian Council.

The Guardian Council — which consists of 12 members, six experts in Islamic law — reviews all the submissions. It rules on the suitability of candidates according to qualifications, standing under Islam, loyalty to the Islamic Republic, and suitability for office. In 2009, the Council approved only four men — Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Mohsen Rezaei — for the June election. This powerful group of jurists and clergy are is expected to make its final decision on the list of candidates by May 23, leaving little time for campaigning. Lies den Rest dieses Beitrags

View What links here Iran: grim choices for president

by SAEED RAHNEMA

Which candidate will be in a better position to weaken the Supreme Leader? Which will be less detrimental in terms of economic mismanagement? And which candidate less dangerous than the others in terms of brazen violations of human rights and civil liberties?

The mass uprising after the electoral coup of 2009, which came to be known as the Green Movement, involved a wide-ranging array of secular, left, liberal, and moderate religious elements. It was defeated mainly because of the unbelievably brutal suppression of the activists, which included killing, maiming, and raping arrested protesters. But the movement’s leadership also played a role. Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoobi were both establishment figures; while they sought reforms, they did not want to challenge the regime in its totality. And the fact that the members of street movements failed to link up with workers and employees who had the power to shut down factories and other institutions as they had done during the Iranian Revolution of 1979, also contributed to this failure.

The situation is much worse for the democratic forces in Iran for this round of presidential elections than was the case in 2009. This is true despite the fact that the ruling cliques’ infighting has reached an unprecedented level, anddifferent groups of the “Principlists” (ultra-right religious fundamentalists) who were united against the Islamist reformists during the last elections, are now openly fighting each other. The leadership hopes to prevent the election of any candidate that would not be loyal and subservient to the Supreme Leader. The manipulation of the electoral process in the Islamic Republic is now a long-standing tradition that takes place in two stages. Firstly, candidates must be approved by the twelve member Guardianship Council (appointed by the Supreme Leader). Secondly, when the electoral process starts, they mobilize a sophisticated machinery to ensure their favoured candidates’ emerge as victors when the polls close, either by actual or fabricated votes. Lies den Rest dieses Beitrags

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