Teach me about the Iranian government!

To be more specific, I am trying to figure out how much of a democracy Iran really is, and how much power the Supreme Leader has.

For example, the UK is a monarchy of course but while the monarch theoretically has vast power and is the ultimate source of authority for the government, the UK is a true democracy with fair elections, a parliamentary government, etc.

I’ve heard it said that Iran is a shining beacon of democracy compared to many middle eastern countries, but that almost sounds like damning with feint praise rather than a genuine compliment.

How much power does the Supreme Leader of Iran have? Is it similar to the monarch of the UK, where in theory all the power derives from them but in practice they have little effect on government, or is it more of a Kim Jung-Un style arrangement where Iranian president is just there for show and really can’t do anything the Supreme Leader doesn’t want?

Could the Supreme Leader intervene in any court proceeding? Could he write a law and have it passed without question? Can you speak out against the supreme leader freely in Iran?

Thank you!

They don’t call him the “Supreme” Leader for nothing!

He, and the Council of Guardians (12 unelected clerics) have all the ultimate power in Iran. They pick the candidates who can run in the elections and they can veto any act of Parliament. The President has nominally more leeway to push his agenda on domestic matters, but even then he can only go so far before the clerics clamp down.

It’s not as bad as North Korea, and probably better than Saudi Arabia, but it is NOT a democracy in any meaningful usage of the word-- all the ultimate authority lies in unelected officials.

If you go to the GD thread about Iran sanctions, there are a few really good links that explain all this in detail. But you’ll have to wade through a fair amount of bull shit to find them.

  1. The Supreme leader is elected by an assembly of clerics and has to be a cleric himself. It’s an 8 year term renewable in perpetuity .

  2. He is the Head of State and has powers to appoint most of the political and judicial officers

  3. The President is the head of government and looks after most of the day to day running of the country.

  4. The exact power balance between the SL and the President (before 1989, the Prime Minister) is fairly complex and depends on who has support of who. After Khomeini, they reduced its powers as no one wanted to have such power in a single man again.

If it can be compared to something, 18th century Britain is a good place to start.

According to Freedom House, it is better than Saudi Arabia and Syria on political rights, but the worst in the Middle East on press freedom. It’s an electoral republic, which is nice in some ways, but hardly a democracy.

You were a less than a day too early for this Cracked column.

One of the interesting things about Iran is that, even though elections are not really free or fair, they are competitive, electoral outcomes matter, and politicians engage in activities that we would recognize as campaigning. If Iran ever decided to eliminate the Supreme Leader and Guardian Council, or reduce them to something like the status of a European monarchy and the House of Lords, I suspect they’d have an excellent chance of making a fully-democratic system work. They’re already most of the way there.

Just from information that I have gleaned over the years - Iran used to be very Westernized when the Shah was in power, and they still have perhaps more affinity towards Western lifestyle than many other Middle Eastern countries. Well, Lebanon does come to mind as in a similar boat.

So while the government is still pretty much controlling things with an iron fist, my guess is the vast majority of populace is biting the bit to get back to the “old days” when they could live more like anyone else in NYC or London or Paris or Berlin or wherever. Just my humble opinion.

Yeah. Get rid of the Clerics power to deny candidates the ability to run and to veto legislation, and they’ve got a Western Style Democracy right there.

It’s had to imagine that anything but a slim minority would object to that.

Although - on further reflection, I’d kind of hope that they would amend their constitution a bit more. Presidential democracies tend to fail - the US is a rare exception. A Parliamentary system, with a Prime Minister drawn from the ranks of the MPs and setting up a government, would probably work better.

And wrong. Tehran was quite cosmopolitan but otherwise the country was poor, rural and conservative. One of the reasons for the revolution. Its more urban and less poor now, but its still quite conservative.

WTH is meant by a “western lifestyle” anyway. The lifestyle in Central London is different from that of Omaha which is different from that of Perth.

I would consider a “western lifestyle” to be more open to women, gays, fashion, film, music, art, literature and more individual freedoms than what they currently have. London, Omaha and Perth all have a populace that accepts minorities, allows for freedom of speech, has little or no censorship, has ample goods and technology, and do not live under the thumb of zealots. That is WTH I meant.

Supreme Leader and Guardian Council run the show. It is like checks and balances on yourself.