The government is based upon the Constitution that was approved in a national referendum in December 1979. This republican Constitution replaced the 1906 constitution, which, with its provisions for a shah to reign as head of state, was the earliest constitution in the Middle East. Soon after the Revolution, however, on March 30 and 31, 1979, the provisional government of Mehdi Bazargan asked all Iranians sixteen years of age and older to vote in a national referendum on the question of whether they approved of abolishing the monarchy and replacing it with an Islamic republic. Subsequently, the government announced that a 98- percent majority favored abrogating the old constitution and establishing such a republic. On the basis of this popular mandate, the provisional government prepared a draft constitution drawing upon some of the articles of the abolished 1906 constitution and the French constitution written under Charles de Gaulle in 1958. Ironically, the government draft did not allot any special political role to the clergy or even mention the concept of velayat-e faqih.
Although the provisional government initially had advocated a popularly elected assembly to complete the Constitution, Khomeini indicted that this task should be undertaken by experts. Accordingly the electorate was called upon to vote for an Assembly of Experts from a list of names approved by the government. The draft constitution was submitted to this seventy-three member assembly, which was dominated by Shia clergy. The Assembly of Experts convened in August 1979 to write the constitution in final form for approval by popular referendum. The clerical majority was generally dissatisfied with the essentially secular draft constitution and was determined to revise it to make it more Islamic. Produced after three months of deliberation, the final document, which was approved by a two- thirds majority of the Assembly of Experts, differed completely from the original draft. For example, it contained provisions for institutionalizing the office of supreme religious jurist, or faqih, and for establishing a theocratic government.
The first presidential elections took place in January 1980, and elections for the first Majlis were held in March and May of 1980. The Council of Guardians, a body that reviews all legislation to ensure that laws are in conformity with Islamic principles, was appointed during the summer of 1980. Presidential elections were held again in 1981 and 1985. The second Majlis was elected in 1984.
|Country Studies main page | Iran Country Studies main page|