In the structure of any democratic system, there is an institution to oversee the implementation of the constitution. The main task of this institution is to preserve and protect the principles of that constitution. After the anti-monarchist revolution in 1979 in Iran, the drafters of the new constitution proposed the Guardian Council as the institution tasked with protecting the constitution.
The Guardian Council began its activities on July 16, 1989. Among its actual duties was to direct and engineer the bills passed by parliament, political forces, and institutions within the system, and to eliminate the opposition.
In the early post-revolution elections, the founder of the Islamic Republic, Khomeini used the Guardian Council as a tool to completely remove most of his serious opposition, the Marxist left, the People’s Mojahedin Organization, and the National Religious movement (liberals), from the political scene. But the decision-makers of the clerical state were not satisfied and gradually decided to completely filter-out their opposition and unify their own forces. This was done to close all the existing gaps and to create the current theocracy.
The Guardian Council totally changed after Khomeini’s death in June 1989 and during the leadership of his successor Ali Khamenei. After his appointment as supreme leader, Khamenei knew he had to control the elected members of the various governing bodies including the parliament, various councils, and the Assembly of Experts more effectively than his predecessor. Khamenei’s full control of the Guardian Council was a means for him to gradually select and appoint the members of elective institutions such as the parliament and even the government.
The Guardian Council has 12 members, six senior clerical members, who are directly appointed by Khamenei, and six jurists, nominated by the head of the judiciary, who is appointed by the Supreme Leader (Khamenei). Finally, the parliament, whose members must be certified and confirmed by the same jurists, vote for the Council members.
In fact, the architects of the Islamic Republic’s system devised a circle in which the undisputed decision-maker is none other than Khamenei. Through this circle, Khamenei can engineer elections and practically shape the institutions of power according to his desires.
The Guardian Council serves Ali Khamenei in many ways. The council’s oversight role over a parliament whose members all pass the Guardian Council’s filtering has effectively become a control tool in the hands of the Supreme Leader. With this tool, Khamenei can stop any bills being passed that would limit his powers or that of any institutions of power under his command.
Over the last two decades, the council has gradually evolved into an institution and a means of guarding the supreme power of the Supreme Leader.
Next year, a sham presidential election is scheduled to take place in an atmosphere of public revulsion and discontent. As early as now, Khamenei, through the Guardian Council intends to announce his candidate for the presidency. The appointment of Ahmad Khatami, known for his hardline and controversial speeches against Khamenei’s opponents to the Guardian Council, serves to strengthen Khamenei’s front in this regard. Ahmad Khatami, 62, who is now one of the youngest members of the Guardian Council, was the first extremist and unknown cleric to gradually enter politics in the ’90s with Khamenei’s volition and entered the Assembly of Experts in 1997 from the Kerman constituency. He has now become one of Khamenei’s most trusted clerics. Ahmad Khatami’s joining of the Guardian Council gives the regime’s Supreme Leader more leeway to pull his preferred candidate out of the ballot box.
The outlook for the upcoming Presidential election in Iran will be far worse than the situation of the engineered parliamentary elections held on February 21, 2020. To warm up his February 21 show, Khamenei, in addition to manipulating the electoral lists, also hid news of the coronavirus outbreak until the day before elections. But his desire for a high turnout was shunned when most Iranians boycotted the elections.