Iran’s political system functions in a theocratic structure of Syncretic politics that is ruled
by an Islamist ideology.
The Islamic Republic constitution of December 1979 and its 1989 change identifies the
Islamic Republic of Iran’s political, economic, and social order, proclaiming that the
country’s official religion is Shia Islam of the Twelver school of thought.
Iran has an elected president, parliament (Majlis), an “Assembly of Experts” (which
selects Iran’s Supreme Leader) and local councils.
Under the constitution, all nominees running for these positions need to be approved by
the Guardian Council (excluding those running for “Assembly of Experts”) before they
can be elected.
Additionally, there are nontransparent unelected associations (normally under control
of the Supreme Leader) who are out to “protect the state’s Islamic character”.
The majority of Iranian political parties were outlawed after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Capital (and largest city): Tehran
Official languages: Persian
Spoken languages: Persian, Azerbaijani,
Kurdish, Lori, Gilaki, Mazandarani,
Balochi, Arabic, Turkmen
Government: Unitary state, Islamic
Supreme Leader: Ali Khamenei
President: Hassan Rouhani
First Vice President: Eshaq Jahangiri
Speaker of the Parliament: Ali Larijani
Chief Justice: Sadeq Larijani
Muslim (official) 98% (Shia 89%,
Other (including Zoroastrian,
Jewish, Christian, and Baha’i) 2%
The Supreme Leader is the highest political office in the Islamic Republic; there have been two:
the Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his successor Ali Khamenei.
Historically, the Supreme Leader has stayed distant from election politics.
Conversely, in the election of 2009, some of Ali Khamenei’s statements were identified by many
to prefer the incumbent nominee.
The Supreme Leader selects the heads of many powerful positions – the commandant of the
armed forces, the manager of the national radio and television network, the heads of the key
spiritual establishments, the prayer leaders in city mosques, and the associates of national
security councils involved in defence and foreign affairs.
He also chooses the chief judge, the chief prosecutor, special courts and, with the chief judge’s
assistance, half of the Guardian Council’s twelve jurists; the Guardian Council is the dominant
body that determines what bills may be passed into law and who may run for president or
Also according to Iran’s constitution, the Supreme Leader affirms the president’s power.
He may reject parliament’s laws; traditionally, he allows presidential runners to declare their
The Iranian constitution names the President as the most powerful state authority after the Supreme
The President is elected through universal suffrage, by those aged eighteen and older, for a four-year
Presidential runners must be approved by the Council of Guardians before they run.
After he or she is elected, the President must be confirmed by the Supreme Leader.
The President is liable for applying the Constitution and exercising administrative powers, excluding
issues related directly to the Supreme Leader.
He also nominates and manages the Council of Ministers, organizes government decisions, and
chooses government policies to be put before the legislature.
Ten VPs serve under the President, along with a cabinet of twenty-one ministers, all of whom need to
get the legislature’s approval.
In contrast to executive branches of other states, Iran’s executive branch does not have power over the
While the President nominates the Ministers of Intelligence and Defense, it is normal for the
President to attain the Supreme Leader’s approval for these two ministers before he presents them
before the legislature for a vote of confidence.
Iran’s current legislature is unicameral.
Prior to the Iranian Revolution, the legislature was bicameral, with the
Senate (upper house) half elected, half nominated by the Shah.
The new constitution removed the Senate.
Iran’s parliament consists of 290
members, who are elected to terms
of four years.
The Parliament drafts legislation
and approves international treaties
and the national budget.
All Parliament nominees and all the
assembly’s legislation needs to be
approved by the Council of
The Guardian Council comprises twelve jurists;
half of them are clerics named by the Supreme
Leader, while the other half are jurists elected by
the Majles from among the Muslim jurists
appointed by the Head of the Judicial System.
The Council interprets the Constitution and can
discard bills from Parliament believed to be
unsuited with the Constitution or Sharia (Islamic
These are submitted back to parliament for
The Council, in a contentious exercise of its power,
has drawn upon a slim understanding of Iran’s
constitution to reject parliamentary nominees.
As of the early 1990s, the Guardian Council vets
(approves) runners for national election in Iran.
According to the CIA World Factbook, the
Guardian Council is part of the executive branch.
The Expediency Council has the power to arbitrate disagreements between
the Majlis and the Council of Guardians, and serves as the Supreme
Leader’s consultative body; this makes it one of the nation’s highest ruling
Its affiliates include heads of the three government branches, the religious
associates of the Guardian Council and many other associates named by
the Supreme Leader for terms of three years.
Members of the cabinet and parliamentary leaders also serve as provisional
affiliates when matters under their judicature are undergoing review.
The Supreme Leader chooses the head of the Judiciary, who in turn chooses the
head of the Supreme Court and the chief public prosecutor.
There are a few kinds of courts, such as public courts that handle civil and criminal
cases, and “revolutionary” courts which handle specific types of offenses, such as
crimes against national security.
The revolutionary court’s decisions are final; they may not be appealed.
The Special Clerical Court deals with felonies claimed to have been committed by
clerics, though it has also dealt with cases involving lay people.
The Special Clerical Court works independently of the usual judicial frame; it is
only answerable to the Supreme Leader.
The Court’s rulings are final; they may not be appealed.
It has also come to the attention of associations including the United Nations and
the World Criminal Court that a very difficult system of bribery has developed due
to the high crime rate.
The Assembly of Experts, which
assembles for at least two days, twice per
year, has eighty-six “virtuous and
learned” priests elected through adult
suffrage for terms of eight years.
Based on the laws the first Assembly
approved, the Council of Guardians
needs to determine runners’ eligibility
with the use of a written exam.
The Assembly elects the Supreme
Leader; they have the legitimate power to
oust the Supreme Leader from power at
Because all of their gatherings and notes
are strictly secret, the Assembly has
never had any history of defying the
Supreme Leader’s decisions.
Born 17 July 1939 in Mashhad.
Supreme Leader of Iran since 4 June 1989, and a
Also served as the President of Iran from 1981-
Was ranked #26 in the list of “World’s Most
Powerful People” in 2010.
As an absolute ruler, he has been portrayed as one
of only three individuals with “important
influence” during the Islamic Republic of Iran’s
Was the victim of a death threat in June 1981 that
injured his right arm, even though the toughest
opposition to his leadership to date has been the
Iranian election demonstrations of 2009 after the
2009 presidential elections, during which he
strongly backed president Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad; they have since had a separation.
Born 12 November 1948 in Sorkheh.
7th and current President of Iran; is seen as politically
Has been a member of the Assembly of Experts since 1999,
member of the Expediency Council since 1991, member of
the Supreme National Security Council since 1989, and
head of the Center for Strategic Research since 1992.
Has also served as deputy speaker of the 4th and 5th terms
of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis – Iranian
Parliament) and secretary of the Supreme National Security
Council from 1989-2005; also presided over Iran’s former
nuclear negotiating team in the later post, where he was
the country’s main negotiator with the EU three – UK,
France, and Germany – on the Iranian nuclear program.
On 7 May 2013, he registered for the presidential election
that took place on 14 June 2013; promised that if elected, he
would arrange a “civil rights charter”, repair the economy,
and improve tense relations with the West.
Took a significant lead as early vote counts came in.
Was elected President of Iran on 15 June and defeated
Tehran mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghaliabaf and four
other challengers; was sworn in on 3 August 2013.
Born 10 January 1957 in Kouhshah, Hormozgan
First VP of President Hassan Rouhani’s
Was previously the minister of industries and
mines from 1997-2005 under President
Mohammad Khatami; was the governor of Isfahan
Province prior to that.
Also served as an MP for two terms.
Graduated from the University of Kerman with a
degree in physics.
Participated in revolutionary groups before the
Iranian Revolution and once was injured by the
forces of the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Later obtained his second Ph.D from Iran
University of Science and Technology in industrial
Born 3 June 1958 in Najaf.
Current chairman of the Parliament of Iran.
Served as the Secretary of the Supreme
National Security Council from 15 August
2005-20 October 2007, having been nominated
by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and
replaced Hassan Rowhani.
Acceptance of his resignation from the
secretary post was announced on 20 October
2007 by Gholamhossein Elham, the spokesman
of the Iranian government, saying that his
earlier resignations were rejected by President
Is one of the two envoys of Supreme Leader Ali
Khamenei to the council; the other is Hassan
In his tenure as secretary, he efficiently
functioned as the principal speaker on matters
of national security, such as the Iranian
Born 12 March 1960 in Najaf.
Current Chief Justice of Iran since 30 June 2009.
Was one of the twelve affiliates of the Guardian
Council of the Islamic Republic of Iran for eight
Depicted as “relatively junior” or “inexperienced
cleric” with “close ties to Iran’s military and
intelligence agencies”, he was nominated head of
Iran’s judicial system by Supreme Leader Ali
Khamenei on 15 August 2009.
Denounced demonstrators and those who had
uncertainties in the 2009 presidential election
results; called the protests “illegal” and any doubts
Is the son of Ayatollah Hashem Amoli and the
brother of Ali Larijani, the speaker of the Iranian
Speaks fluent Persian, Arabic, and English.