Saturday, November 19, 2011

Will Ayatollah Khamenei eliminate the Iranian presidency?

Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, one of the greatest failures of the country’s leadership has been the inability to make a promised transition from a monarchy to republican rule. In fact, since Ayatollah Ali Khamenei began his tenure as Supreme Leader twenty-two years ago, he has centralized power further in his own hands, creating what can be called a clerical monarchy.

Now, Khamenei may be completing the circle and entirely eliminating any notion of a “republic” by turning Iran into a fully blown theocratic and authoritarian state.

Last month, Khamenei made a short statement, which has sparked an intense debate. The 72-year-old Iranian leader hinted at the possibility of dissolving the post of president, one of only two institutions in which the populace has a say.

During a visit to Kermanshah, a western Iranian province, Khamenei announced, “In the country’s current political system, there is a president who is directly elected by the people. This is a good and an effective method. However, if someday in the distant future, it is decided that the parliamentary system is a better way to elect the head of the executive branch, there is nothing wrong with changing the current mechanism.”

So why has the Supreme Leader decided to suggest eliminating the position of the presidency in Iran? What does he have to gain from this dramatic political shift? The most obvious explanation is his determination not to repeat the disputed 2009 election and its aftermath. Elections in Iran historically have offered the population rare opportunities to express their grievances with the regime. The protests in 2009 and 2010, which drew millions of Iranians to the streets, not only seriously threatened Khamenei’s ability to govern, but exposed his unpopularity. more