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Government of Iran

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Government of Iran

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The politics of Iran take place in a framework of theocracy in a format of Syncretic politics that is guided by an Islamist ideology. The December 1979 constitution, and its 1989 amendment, define the political, economic, and social order of the Islamic Republic of Iran, declaring that Shi'a Islam of the Twelver school of thought is Iran's official religion.

Iran has an elected president, parliament (or Majlis), and an "Assembly of Experts" (which elects the Supreme Leader of Iran), and local councils. According to the constitution all candidates running for these positions must be vetted by the Guardian Council (with the exception of those running for "Assembly of Experts") before being elected.

In addition there are nontransparent unelected organizations (usually under Supreme Leader's control) trying to "protect the state's Islamic character".[1]

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei CCA 4 June 1989
President Hassan Rouhani CCA 3 August 2013
Chairman of the Parliament Ali Larijani ISE 2 May 2008
Chief Justice Sadeq Larijani Independent 30 June 2009

Political conditions

As in almost all revolutions, the early days of the regime were characterized by political tumult. In November 1979 the American embassy was seized and its occupants taken hostage and kept captive for 444 days. The eight-year Iran–Iraq War killed hundreds of thousands and cost the country billions of dollars. By mid-1982, a succession of power struggles eliminated first the center of political spectrum and then the Republicans[2][3][4] leaving the Ayatollah Khomeini and his supporters in power.

Iran's post-revolution challenges have included the imposition of economic sanctions and suspension of diplomatic relations with Iran by the United States because of the hostage crisis and other acts of terrorism that the U.S. government and some others have accused Iran of sponsoring. Emigration has cost Iran "two to four million entrepreneurs, professionals, technicians, and skilled craftspeople (and their capital)." [5][6] For this and other reasons Iran's economy has not prospered. Poverty rose in absolute terms by nearly 45% during the first 6 years of the Islamic revolution [7] and per capita income has yet to reach pre-revolutionary levels.[8][9]

The Islamic Republic Party was Iran's ruling political party and for some years its only political party until its dissolution in 1987. Iran had no functioning political parties until the Executives of Construction Party formed in 1994 to run for the fifth parliamentary elections, mainly out of executive body of the government close to the then-president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani. After the election of Mohammad Khatami in 1997, more parties started to work, mostly of the reformist movement and opposed by hard-liners. This led to incorporation and official activity of many other groups, including hard-liners.

The Iranian Government is opposed by a few armed political groups, including the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, the People's Fedayeen, and the Kurdish Democratic Party.

For other political parties see List of political parties in Iran.

Supreme Leader

Main article: Supreme Leader of Iran

The most powerful political office in the Islamic Republic is that of the Supreme Leader, of which there have been two: the founder of the Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, and his successor, Ali Khamenei.

Historically the Supreme Leader has remained aloof from election politics. However, in the 2009 election, some of the pronouncements by Ali Khamenei were perceived by many to favor the incumbent candidate.

The Leader appoints the heads of many powerful posts - the commanders of the armed forces, the director of the national radio and television network, the heads of the major religious foundations, the prayer leaders in city mosques, and the members of national security councils dealing with defence and foreign affairs. He also appoints the chief judge, the chief prosecutor, special tribunals and, with the help of the chief judge, half of the 12 jurists of the Guardian Council – the powerful body that decides both what bills may become law and who may run for president or parliament.[10] Also according to Iranian constitution the Supreme Leader asserts the authority of the president. He can veto the laws made by the parliament and traditionally he permits for presidential candidates to proclaim their candidacy

Executive branch

Main article: President of Iran

The Constitution defines the President as the highest state authority after the Supreme Leader. The President is elected by universal suffrage, by those 18 years old and older,[11] for a term of four years. Presidential candidates must be approved by the Council of Guardians prior to running. After being elected, the president must be appointed by the Supreme Leader. The President is responsible for the implementation of the Constitution and for the exercise of executive powers, except for matters directly related to the Supreme Leader. The President appoints and supervises the Council of Ministers, coordinates government decisions, and selects government policies to be placed before the legislature. Currently, 10 Vice-Presidents serve under the President, as well as a cabinet of 21 ministers, who must all be approved by the legislature. Unlike many other states, the executive branch in Iran does not control the armed forces. Although the President appoints the Ministers of Intelligence and Defense, it is customary for the President to obtain explicit approval from the Supreme Leader for these two ministers before presenting them to the legislature for a vote of confidence.

Legislative branch

The current legislature of Iran is unicameral. Before the Iranian Revolution, the legislature was bicameral, with the senate (upper house) half elected, half appointed by the Shah. The senate was removed in the new constitution.


The Parliament of Iran, or Majlis, comprises 290 members elected for four-year terms. The Parliament drafts legislation, ratifies international treaties, and approves the national budget. All Parliament candidates and all legislation from the assembly must be approved by the Council of Guardians.

Guardian Council

Main article: Guardian Council

The Guardian Council is composed of 12 jurists, including six clerics appointed by the Supreme Leader, and six jurists elected by the Majles from among the Muslim jurists nominated by the Head of the Judicial System. The Council interprets the constitution and may reject bills from parliament deemed incompatible with the constitution or Sharia (Islamic law). These are referred back to parliament for revision. In a controversial exercise of its authority, the Council has drawn upon a narrow interpretation of Iran's constitution to veto parliamentary candidates.

As of the early 1990s, the Guardian Council vets (approves) candidates for national election in Iran.

According to the CIA World Factbook, The Guardian Council is a part of the Executive branch of the government.[12]

Expediency Council

The Expediency Council has the authority to mediate disputes between the Majlis and the Council of Guardians, and serves as an advisory body to the Supreme Leader, making it one of the most powerful governing bodies in the country.

Its members include heads of the three government branches, the clerical members of the Guardian Council and various other members appointed by the supreme leader for three-year terms. Cabinet members and parliamentary leaders also serve as temporary members when issues under their jurisdictions are under review. [13]

Judicial branch

The Supreme Leader appoints the head of the Judiciary, who in turn appoints the head of the supreme court and the chief public prosecutor. There are several types of courts including public courts that deal with civil and criminal cases, and "revolutionary courts" which deal with certain categories of offenses, including crimes against national security. The decisions of the revolutionary courts are final and cannot be appealed. The Special Clerical Court handles crimes allegedly committed by clerics, although it has also taken on cases involving lay people. The Special Clerical Court functions independently of the regular judicial framework and is accountable only to the Supreme Leader. The Court’s rulings are final and cannot be appealed.

Assembly of Experts

Main article: Assembly of Experts

The Assembly of Experts, which meets for at least two days, twice annually,[14] comprises 86 "virtuous and learned" clerics elected by adult suffrage for eight-year terms. Based on the laws approved by the first Assembly, the Council of Guardians has to determine candidates' eligibility using a written examination. The Assembly elects the Supreme Leader and has the constitutional authority to remove the Supreme Leader from power at any time. As all of their meetings and notes are strictly confidential, the Assembly has never been known to challenge any of the Supreme Leader's decisions.

Political parties and elections

For other political parties see political parties in Iran. An overview on elections and election results is included in Elections in Iran.

These are the most recent elections that have taken place. Template:Iranian presidential election, 2013

More info: Iranian presidential election, 2013

Template:Iranian legislative election, 2012

More info: Iranian legislative election, 2012

Political pressure groups and leaders

Active student groups include the pro-reform "Office for Strengthening Unity" and "the Union of Islamic Student Societies';

  • Groups that generally support the Islamic Republic include Ansar-e Hizballah, The Iranian Islamic Students Association, Muslim Students Following the Line of the Imam, Islam's Students, and the Islamic Coalition Association. The conservative power base is said to be made up of a "web of Basiji militia members, families of war martyrs, some members of the Revolutionary Guard, some government employees, some members of the urban and rural poor, and conservative-linked foundations."[15]
  • opposition groups include the Freedom Movement of Iran and the Nation of Iran party;
  • armed political groups that have been almost completely repressed by the government include Mojahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK), People's Fedayeen, Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan; the Society for the Defense of Freedom.


Main article: Military of Iran

The military and the Corps of the Guardians (often mistranslated as guards) of the Islamic Revolution (or Sepaah in Persian meaning the Corps) are charged with defending Iran's borders and Baseej (Persian for Mobilization) militia are charged with maintaining both external and internal security.

Administrative divisions

Main article: Provinces of Iran

Iran consists of 31 provinces (ostaan-haa, singular: ostan): Ardabil, Azarbayjan-e Gharbi, Azarbayjan-e Sharqi, Alborz (Karaj), Bushehr, Chahar Mahall va Bakhtiari, Esfahan, Fars, Gilan, Golestan, Hamadan, Hormozgan, Ilam, Kerman, Kermanshahan, North Khorasan, Khorasan, South Khorasan, Khuzestan, Kohkiluyeh va Buyer Ahmadi, Kordestan, Lorestan, Markazi, Mazandaran, Qom, Qazvin, Semnan, Sistan va Baluchestan, Tehran, Yazd, Zanjan. The provinces are each headed by a governor general. The provinces are further divided into counties, districts, and villages.

Local government

Local councils are elected by public vote to 4-year terms in all cities and villages of Iran. According to article 7 in Iran's Constitution, these local councils together with the Parliament are "decision-making and administrative organs of the State". This section of the constitution was not implemented until 1999 when the first local council elections were held across the country. Councils have many different responsibilities including electing mayors, supervising the activities of municipalities; studying the social, cultural, educational, health, economic, and welfare requirements of their constituencies; planning and coordinating national participation in the implementation of social, economic, constructive, cultural, educational and other welfare affairs.

Public finance and fiscal policy


Iran has two types of budget:

  1. Public or "General" Government Budget
  2. "Total" Government Budget; which includes state-owned companies

A unique feature of Iran's economy is the large size of the religious foundations whose combined budgets make up more than 30% that of the central government.[17][18][19]


In 2004, about 45 percent of the government's budget came from exports of oil and natural gas revenues, although this varies with the fluctuations in world petroleum markets and 31 percent came from taxes and fees.[16] Overall, an estimated 50 percent of Iran’s GDP was exempt from taxes in FY 2004.[21]

As of 2010, oil income accounts for 80% of Iran's foreign currency revenues and 60% of the nation's overall budget.[22] Any surplus revenues from the sale of crude oil and gas are to be paid into the Oil Stabilization Fund (OSF). The approved "total budget", including state owned commercial companies, was $295 billion for the same period.[23]

The Government seeks to increase the share of tax revenue in the budget through the implementation of the so-called “economic reform plan” through more effective tax collection from businesses.


Because of changes in the classification of budgetary figures, comparison of categories among different years is not possible. However, since the Revolution the government’s general budget payments have averaged:[21]

  • 59 percent for social affairs,
  • 17 percent for economic affairs,
  • 15 percent for national defense, and
  • 13 percent for general affairs.

For a breakdown of expenditures for social and economic purposes, see attached chart.

In FY 2004, central government expenditures were divided as follows:[21]

  • current expenditures, 59 percent, and
  • capital expenditures, 32 percent.
  • Other items (earmarked expenditures, foreign-exchange losses, coverage of liabilities of letters of credit, and net lending) accounted for the remainder.

Among current expenditures, wages and salaries accounted for 36 percent; subsidies and transfers to households accounted for 22 percent (not including indirect subsidies). Earmarked expenditures totaled 13 percent of the central government total. Between FY 2000 and FY 2004, total expenditures and net lending accounted for about 26 percent of GDP.[21] According to the Vice President for Parliamentary Affairs, Iran's subsidy reforms would save 20 percent of the country's budget.[24]

According to the head of the

Financial situation of the Government[26][27][28]
2007-2009 (In billion Iranian Rials)1)3)4)5)6)7)
Year 1386 (2007–08)


 % of nominal GDP


Year 1387 (2008–09)

(approved budget)

Year 1387 (2008–09)


Revenues and payments
191,815.3 11.4% 217,155 239,741.4 Tax revenues (i.e. Income tax, Corporate tax, VAT, Customs fees etc.)
106,387.8 121,598.1 139,597.1 (+) Other revenues (i.e. Public corporations’ dividend, Government services & other fees)
298,203.1 338,753.1 379,338.5 = Revenues
- 421,334.1 16.1% - 621,126 - 564,290.0 (–) Expenditure payments/current (i.e. Government wages) (see also: Iranian targeted subsidy plan)
-123,131 -4.7% -282,372.9 -184,951.5 = (+/-) Operational balance
173,519.1 298,865.6 215,650.3 Sale of oil and oil products (see also: Ministry of Petroleum of Iran & National Iranian Oil Company)
1,272.7 3,095 986.5 (+) Others (Value of movable and immovable properties)
174,791.8 301,960.6 216,636.7 = Transfer of capital assets
- 147,715.8 (-157,215.8)(2) 5.6% - 251,573.8 - 213,495.8 (–) Acquisition of capital assets/development expenditures (in Transport, Urban and Rural Development and Housing Provision Plans in the Framework of Welfare and Social Security System)
27,076.1 (17,576.1)(2) 50,386.8 3,140.9 = Net transfer of capital assets
-123,131 -4.7% -282,372.9 -184,951.5 + Operational balance (see above for details)
-96,054.9 (-105,554.9)(2) -3.7% -231,986.1 -181,810.6 = Operational and capital balance (Operational balance + Net transfer of capital assets)
156,614.1 (166,114.0)(2) 267,771.6 218,260.0 Transfer of financial assets (i.e. Privatization proceeds, World Bank facilities, Sale of participation papers & National development fund utilization)
- 60,559.2 - 35,785.5 - 36,449.4 (–) Acquisition of financial assets (i.e. Repayment of external debts and obligations (out of the Oil Stabilization Fund)
96,054.9 (105,554.9)(2) 3.7% 231,986.1 181,810.6 = Net transfer of financial assets (Transfer of financial assetsAcquisition of financial assets)

1) Since 2002, the latest spending and liability not included.

External debts

In 2013 the external debts stood at $7.2 billion compared with $17.3 billion in 2012.[31]


In Iran’s state budget for the Iranian calendar year 1388 (2009–2010), of the $102 billion earmarked for government spending,[23]

Oil revenues are calculated based on the average price of $37.50 per barrel at the US Dollar conversion rate of 9,500 Rials.[32] Iran balances its external accounts around $75 per barrel.[33]


The budget for Iranian year 1389 (2010–2011), which starts on March 21, amounts to $368.4bn, representing an increase of 31 per cent on the previous year and is based on a projected oil price of $60 a barrel compared with just $37.50 last year.[32]


The public budget was $165 billion (1,770 trillion rials) in Iranian year 2011-2012. The Iranian Parliament also approved a total budget of $500 billion (5,170 trillion rials) that factors in $54 billion from price hikes and subsidy cuts and aside from the government (or public budget) also includes spending for state-owned companies.[34][35] The budget is based on an oil price of $80 per barrel. The value of the US dollar is estimated at IRR 10,500 for the same period. the 2011-total budget shows a 45-percent increase compared with that of 2011 which stood at $368 billion.[36]


The proposed budget for 2011-2012 amounts to 5.1 quadrillion rials (approximately $416 billion).[37] The funding for running the government has been decreased by 5.6 percent and the government’s tax revenues have been envisaged to rise by 20 percent.[37] The defense budget shows an increase of 127 percent. The government also is seeking higher sums for development, research, and health projects.[38] Approved budget of 5,660 trillion Rials $477 billion is based on an oil price of $85 per barrel and the average value of the U.S. dollar for the fiscal year has been projected to be 12,260 rials, allowing the government to gain $53.8 billion from subsidy cut.[39] The approved total state budget figure shows an 11% increase in Rial terms, in comparison to the previous year’s budget. Of this amount, $134 billion relates to the government’s general budget and the remaining $343 billion relates to state-owned companies and organizations. Of the $134 billion for the government’s general budget, $117 billion relates to operating expenditure and $17 billion is for infrastructure developments. The government’s general budget for 2012-13 shows a 3.5% decline in comparison to the previous year, while the budget for state-owned companies and organisations has risen by 18.5%. Revenues from crude oil make up 37% of the state’s total revenues in the budget. Revenues from taxes have been projected at 458 trillion Rials ($37 billion), which shows a 10% increase year-on-year.[40] In the first half of 2012, Iran announced in Majlis that it has taken in only 25% of its budgeted annual revenue.[41] According to Apicorp, Iran needs oil to average $127 a barrel in 2012 for its fiscal budget to break even.[42]

Complexity of the system

According to the constitution, the Guardian Council oversees and approves electoral candidates for most national elections in Iran. The Guardian Council has 12 members, six clerics, appointed by the Supreme Leader and six jurists, elected by the Majlis from among the Muslim jurists nominated by the Head of the Judicial System, who is appointed by the Supreme Leader. According to the current law, the Guardian Council approves the Assembly of Experts candidates, which in turn supervise and elect the Supreme Leader.

The reformists say this system creates a closed circle of power.[43] Iranian reformists, such as Mohammad-Ali Abtahi have considered this to be the core legal obstacle for the reform movement in Iran.[44][45][46][47][48]

International organization participation

CP, ECO, ESCAP, FAO, G-15, G-24, G-77, GECF, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, International Maritime Organization, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO, ITU, NAM, OIC, OPCW, OPEC, PCA, SCO (observer), United Nations, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WIPO, WFTU, WEF, WHO, WMO, WTO (observer)

See also

Iran portal
Politics portal



  • Ray Takeyh: Hidden Iran - Paradox and Power in the Islamic Republic, New York 2006, ISBN

External links

Government Ministries of Iran

  • [2]
  • [3]
  • [4]
  • Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance [5]
  • [6]
  • [7]
  • [8]
  • [9]
  • [10]
  • [11]
  • [12]
  • [13]
  • [14]
  • 2
  • [15]
  • [16]
  • [17]

Other government links

  • Secretariat of The High Council of Iran Free Trade Industrial Zones [18]
  • [19]
  • Secretariat of The High Council of The Cultural Revolution [20]
  • Official Spokesman of the Islamic Republic of Iran [21]
  • [22]
  • Islamic Republic of Iran Police Forces [23]
  • [24]
  • Islamic Republic of Iran Geological Survey Organization [25]
  • [26]
  • Islamic Republic of Iran Organization of Welfare [27]
  • Islamic Republic of Iran National Youth Organization [28]
  • Islamic Republic of Iran Judiciary Public Relations Bureau [29]
  • Islamic Republic of Iran Center for Affairs of Women's Participation [30]
  • [31]
  • Islamic Republic of Iran Cultural Heritage Organization [32]
  • Islamic Republic of Iran Headquarters for Combating Drugs [33]
  • [34]
  • Islamic Republic of Iran Department of Environment [35]
  • Islamic Republic of Iran International Center for Dialogue Among Civilizations [36]
  • [37]
  • Islamic Republic of Iran Physical Education Organization [38]
  • [39]


  • Central Bank of Iran.
  • PDF document describing all Ministries and institutes affiliated to the Government of Iran
  • Iran Basic Addresses
  • Iran Center for Strategic Studies [40]
  • Tehran International Studies and Research Institute [41]
  • The Network of Iranian law in Persian, English and French
  • Constitutional law in French
  • Iranian law in English
  • Iranian law in French
  • Video Archive of Iranian Politics
  • BBC News, includes flowchart
  • DMOZ


  • Power of Iran’s Supreme Leader Dwarfs Presidency by REALITE-EU
  • Democracy in Iran by BBC
  • B.B.C. In depth.
  • PressTV)
  • Part III (PressTV 2010)
  • Iran's political establishment (PressTV 2011)
  • Iran's budget bill for the 2011-fiscal year (PressTV 2011)
  • Iran's 1391 (2012) Budget bill (PressTV 2012)
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