What does the Constitution stipulate?

Tehran MP Ali Motahari has said by allowing for supervision of all officials, including the leader, Iran’s Constitution does not let the Islamic Republic turn into a religious dictatorship.

With less than three months to go before elections for the Assembly of Experts and parliament are held (February 26, 2016), electoral fever in the country has risen to a high pitch.

Recent remarks by the chairman of the Expediency Council on the formation of a “leadership council” and the responsibility of the Assembly of Experts to oversee the workings of the leader have stirred a controversy. Opponents of Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi’s comments were quick to condemn his words as unconstitutional and illegal.

One such condemnation came from the Judiciary chief who said assertions that the assembly is tasked with overseeing the leader’s performance have no constitutional foundation.

In reaction, Tehran MP challenged the top judge’s interpretation of the Constitution, seeking to explain the basic laws for the public.

In a letter to the Judiciary chief, Tehran MP Ali Motahari said that everyone is accountable in the Islamic Republic of Iran and that the glory of the Islamic Republic lies in the fact that it is a religious establishment which has not fostered despotism.

The following is the translation of part of Motahari’s letter as reported by Fararu.com on December 18:

To Esteemed Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Sadegh Amoli Larijani,

Recently you made a [public] comment which raised eyebrows among a large number of politicians, lawyers and Islamists. You said that “oversight of the leader” [supervision of the performance of the leader] has not been envisioned in the Constitution.

It is clear that the phrase “oversight of the leader” is nowhere to be found in the Constitution, but the question that arises here is: Hasn’t this phrase’s implied meaning been included in the Constitution? Shall we simply stick to [the face value of] words?

Your comment runs counter to the ideology of Imam Khomeini and the Supreme Leader, defies wisdom and politics, contradicts the tradition of the Muslim Prophet and Imam Ali, and is against the Constitution and what was debated in the Constituent Assembly. What you said also plays into the hands of those who always accuse the Islamic Republic of being a religious dictatorship.

Your remark is a reminder of claims by the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages that the ruler shoulders no responsibility vis-à-vis people and he is only responsible to God, but that people have responsibility vis-à-vis the ruler. Islam disapproves of this. As Imam Ali has put it, a ruler owes people some rights and people too owe the ruler some rights; basically this is a two-way street, and the only one who owes people no right and only people owe Him some right is God.

You seem to have hurried – out of feverish excitement – to respond to the comments of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani on the need for supervising the affiliates of the Supreme Leader’s Office, and made a statement you yourself may not have much belief in.

You have said that under the Constitution, the Assembly of Experts is tasked with determining whether an individual meets the necessary requirements to become leader, [it does not supervise the workings of the leader] and that it is quite natural that such determination differs from oversight and these two are not interdependent.

Firstly, the Assembly of Experts is not simply tasked with determining who meets or lacks the necessary requirements to become leader on the day the leader is appointed; rather, according to the Constitution’s Article 111, it is charged with measures to see if the leader continues to meet those requirements during his leadership.

[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. …]

Secondly, to determine whether the leader continues to meet those requirements is all but impossible without supervising the workings of the leader, and despite your interpretation, these two are interdependent.

You have made an analogy which is unfortunately inaccurate and irrelevant. You have said that oversight by the Assembly of Experts of the leader resembles a situation in which people who seek to follow the sources of emulation supervise these sources because the followers should make sure that their sources of emulation meet the requirements of being the most learned individual, enjoy Ijtihad and are just, [and have gone on to say] that the falsehood of such a comment is clearly evident.

Firstly, the falsehood of this comment is not evident, because even in this case [that you mentioned] the follower of a source of emulation has the responsibility to supervise the source to see if he continues to be just, and this does not happen unless the follower keeps an eye on the performance of the source of emulation. If that source of emulation fails to be just, the follower should turn to another source.

Secondly, let’s assume that supervision does not apply to this case (sources of emulation and their followers), but it provides us with no good reason to claim that it does not apply to the responsibilities of the Assembly of Experts either, because these two subjects are totally different.

Followers are not allowed to dismiss a source of emulation, but the Assembly of Experts has the authority and responsibility to dismiss the leader in case he fails to meet the requirements of the leadership, and such authority is not exercised and such responsibility is not undertaken unless the assembly supervises the workings and behavior of the leader.

In other words, the question of sources of emulation and their followers is a personal issue, and the question of the Assembly of Experts and the leader is a social one, thus comparing these two questions is a mistake.

In a Q-and-A session with students of Amir Kabir University of Technology on February 27, 2001, the Supreme Leader said, “Nobody is above supervision. The leader himself is not exempt from supervision, let alone the bodies linked to the leadership.

“Therefore all [officials] should be supervised. Those who rule [the country] should be subject to supervision. Governance naturally leads to the accumulation of wealth and power. In other words, public funds and properties as well as social and political authority lie in the hands of the rulers. It [supervision] is necessary and imperative so that those in government do not betray [people’s] trust, do not misuse [their position] and do not get consumed with their passions.”

The Supreme Leader also touched upon the selection of leader in the sermons of Eid-ul-Fitr prayers in 2006, and said, “The main responsibility of the [Assembly of] Experts is first to choose the leader and second to supervise the sitting leader”.


In short, nobody in the Islamic Republic can be unanswerable [to the public]. The glory of the Islamic Republic lies in the fact that although it is a religious government, it has not been afflicted by the deviations religious governments went through in Europe in the past and has not walked down a path that leads to religious despotism, because the Constitution of this establishment, and above all Islam, has prevented such a thing from happening.