The Assembly of Experts
- The Assembly of Experts for the Leadership (Majles-e Khobragan Rahbari) is Iran’s only constitutional body with the authority to appoint and dismiss the supreme leader.
- The members are popularly elected every eight years. But candidates, all Islamic scholars and jurists, have been vetted to exclude reformers or critics since 1991.
- The body has had 86 members. In 2015, it voted to reject increasing its membership to 99. The group, however, will reconsider the issue in 2024.
- For all its powers, the assembly has served as a rubber stamp organization that has never seriously questioned the actions of either of the two supreme leaders who have led Iran since the 1979 revolution.
- The absence of a real check has allowed the office of leadership, even under Ayatollah Ali Khamenei who began as a relatively weak political and religious figure, to become increasingly powerful.
The idea for an assembly of experts dates back to the 1979 Iranian Revolution, when a constituent assembly was needed to draft a new constitution. Debates over the nature of that body ultimately led to the formation of a small, expert-based group rather than a larger assembly of representatives from all over the country. The first assembly was dissolved after the constitution was ratified in December 1979.
- Select the supreme leader (Article 107 and 111).
- Dismiss him if he is unable to perform his constitutional duties or it becomes known that he did not possess some of the initial qualifications such as “social and political wisdom, prudence, courage, administrative facilities and adequate capability for leadership (Article 111).”
- Supervise the supreme leader’s capabilities to determine whether he is able to perform his duties. The assembly also has a committee to oversee “the continuation of qualifications for the leader specified in the constitution.”
- First Assembly of Experts (1983-1991)
- Second Assembly of Experts (1991-99)
- Third Assembly of Experts (1999-07)
- Fourth Assembly of Experts (2007- present)
Farideh Farhi is an independent scholar and affiliate graduate faculty at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa.
This chapter was originally published in 2010, and is updated as of August 2015.
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