Assembly of Experts

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Assembly of Experts of Iran
مجلس خبرگان رهبری
Coat of arms or logo
Ahmad Jannati
Since 24 May 2016
First Deputy Speaker
Ali Movahedi-Kermani
Since 24 May 2016
Second Deputy Speaker
Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi
Since 21 October 2012
Seats 88
Political groups
Combatant Clergy Association
Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom
People's Experts
Length of term
8 years[1]
First-past-the-post voting[1]
Last election
26 February 2016
Meeting place
Palais du Senat iranien (1970).jpg
Assembly of Experts, Tehran, Iran
This article is part of a series on the
Politics of the
Islamic Republic of Iran
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Government of Islamic Republic of Iran

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The Assembly of Experts[2] (also Assembly of Experts of the Leadership) of Iran (Persian: مجلس خبرگان رهبری‎, translit. Majles-e Khobregān-e Rahbari‎), also translated as Council of Experts, is a deliberative body of eighty eight (88) Mujtahids (Islamic theologians) that is charged with electing and removing the Supreme Leader of Iran and supervising his activities. Members of the assembly are elected from lists of candidates by direct public vote for eight-year terms.[3] The number of members has ranged from 82 elected in 1982 to 88 elected in 2016. Current laws require the assembly to meet for at least two days every six months.[4][5] The current chairman of the Fifth Assembly is Ahmad Jannati.[6] All candidates to the Assembly of Experts, the President and the Majlis (Parliament), must be approved by the Guardian Council, while half of its members are selected by the Supreme Leader of Iran.[7] As such, the Assembly has never questioned the Supreme Leader.[8] There have been instances when the current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei publicly criticized members of the Assembly of Experts, resulting in their arrest and dismissal. For example, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei publicly called then-member of the Assembly of Experts Ahmad Azari Qomi a traitor, resulting in Ahmad Azari Qomi's arrest and eventual dismissal from the Assembly of Experts.


The members of this assembly are jurists, not theologians. This is a very important difference. According to the Iranian Constitution, the assembly is in charge of supervising, dismissing and electing the Supreme Leader. In the event of his death, resignation or dismissal, the Experts shall take steps within the shortest possible time to appoint a new Leader.[9] "Whenever the Leader becomes incapable of fulfilling his constitutional duties, or loses one of the qualifications mentioned in the Constitution, or it becomes known that he did not possess some of the qualifications initially, he will be dismissed."[9] The assembly has never dismissed a sitting Supreme Leader, and as all of their meetings and notes are strictly confidential, the assembly has never been known to challenge or otherwise publicly oversee any of the Supreme Leader's decisions.[10]

To choose the Supreme Leader, the Experts are to review qualified candidates and consult among themselves. Constitutionally the criteria of qualification for the office of the Supreme Leader include "Islamic scholarship, justice, piety, right political and social perspicacity, prudence, courage, administrative facilities and adequate capability for leadership."[9] In the event that they find one of the jurists better versed in Islamic regulations, in fiqh, or in political and social issues, or possessing more general popularity or special prominence than any of their members, they shall elect that person as Supreme Leader. Otherwise, in the absence of such a candidate, the Experts shall elect and declare one of their own as Supreme Leader.[9]

According to Chibli Mallat, a Lebanese legal scholar and intellectual, the basis of the Assembly's election and work is derived from the Shia tradition whereby the Shia rank and file, the muqallid, "choose their marja and then the pre-eminent marja emerges by consent among senior clerics."[11]

The assembly gathers every six months. Activities of the assembly include compiling a list of those eligible to become Supreme Leader in the event of the current Supreme Leader's death, resignation, or dismissal. This is done by the 107/109 commission.[12] Monitoring the current leader to make sure he continues to meet all the criteria listed in the constitution is done by the 111 commission.[12] Members of the Assembly report to this commission about the issues concerning the current Supreme Leader, and the commission can then order an emergency meeting of the Assembly. If the commission denies this, the members can ask the entire plenary of the Assembly (86 members) for a vote, and if most of the members vote in favor, an emergency meeting will be scheduled to discuss the current Supreme Leader. The meetings, meeting notes, and reports of the Assembly are confidential and not made available to anyone outside the assembly, except for the sitting Supreme Leader.[12]

The constitution does not specify requirements for candidacy for the Assembly of Experts, leaving the Assembly itself to put limits on who may run for membership. The assembly has passed laws to require all its members be experts in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence),[13] authorizing the Guardian Council to vet candidates for ijtihad proficiency using written and oral examinations. This law was challenged by the reformists, and their 2006 election campaign included changing this law to allow non-clerics into the assembly, and reforming the law that allows Guardian Council to vet candidates.[14][15] Women (Mujtahidehs) are theoretically eligible to run for the Assembly of Experts and in 1998 nine women submitted their candidacy. The Guardian Council rejected them, arguing that they lacked qualifications in fiqh.

Currently, the average age of the members of the Assembly is over 60 years, which results in many mid-term elections due to deaths and resignations. The members must be Ayatollahs.[16]


The Assembly of Experts grew out of the Assembly of Experts for Constitution.

First Assembly (1983–1991)[edit]

The first elections for the Assembly of Experts of the Leadership were held in December 1982 and the Assembly first convened in 1983. 76 of the total of 83 members were elected in the first round, the rest in the second. The full list of members and election results is available on the Princeton Iran Data Portal.[17]

As a number of members died, by-elections for replacement candidates were held in April 1988.

The Assembly was chaired throughout the term by Ayatollah Ali Meshkini, who chaired the Assembly also in subsequent terms until 2007.

Assembly of Experts' Secretariate in Qom

In 1985, the Assembly chose Ayatollah Montazeri as the successor to Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Khomeini. But on Sunday, 26 March 1989 Khomeini dismissed him in a letter: "... you are no longer eligible to succeed me as the legitimate leader of the state."[18] Following the death of Ruhollah Khomeini on 3 June 1989, the Assembly of Experts chose Ali Khamenei to be his successor as Supreme Leader in what proved to be a smooth transition.[19] Initially, a council of three members, "Ali Meshkini, Mousavi Ardabili and Ali Khamenei", were proposed for Leadership. After rejection of a Leadership Council by the assembly, and lack of votes for Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Golpaygani, Khamenei became the Supreme Leader by two third of the votes.[20][21]

Second Assembly (1991–1999)[edit]

The Second Assembly was also chaired by Ayatollah Ali Meshkini. The full list of members and election results is available on the Princeton Iran Data Portal.[22] Sayed Mohammad Fagheh was one of the members from the province Neyriz Fars.

Third Assembly (1999–2007)[edit]

The 3rd assembly was again chaired by Ayatollah Ali Meshkini, deputied by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini. The scribes were former Minister of Intelligence Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi and Ahmad Khatami. The members according to each province were:[23][24]

Fourth Assembly (2007–2016)[edit]

The first season in the year of 2013

The election for the fourth assembly took place on 15 December 2006 and the Assembly first convened on 19 February 2007. In July 2007, chairman Ayatollah Meshkini died, and Ayatollah Rafsanjani was elected to succeed him. On 8 March 2011, Ayatollah Mohammad-Reza Mahdavi Kani in turn replaced Ayatollah Rafsanjani as chairman.[16] On 4 June 2014, Mahdavi Kani fell into a coma after suffering a heart attack and died on 21 October 2014. He was succeeded by Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi as acting chairman.[25]

The term begun in 2007 shall allegedly last ten years (rather than the regular eight) due to the "election aggregation" plan of the government, put in place to allow the government to run elections simultaneously for the Assembly of Experts and the Parliament, thereby economizing election administration costs. In February these concurrent elections will occur which will influence the Supreme Leader succession or the possibility of a special council to subsume the office.[26]

Fifth Assembly (2016–2024)[edit]

The election of 88 members of the Fifth Assembly took place on 26 February 2016 alongside of the election for 290 members of the Iranian Majlis (parliament). Those elected will sit for a projected 8-year term.[27] The new assembly was opened on 24 May 2016 and selected Ahmad Jannati as chairman of the Fifth Assembly.[28]


  1. ^ a b Nohlen, Dieter; Grotz, Florian; Hartmann, Christof (2001). "Iran". Elections in Asia: A Data Handbook. I. Oxford University Press. p. 64. ISBN 0-19-924958-X. 
  2. ^ [1] Archived 2 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ "Understanding Iran's Assembly of Experts" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-07-28. 
  4. ^ [2] Archived 9 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Robin Wright, The Last Great Revolution: Turmoil and Transformation in Iran, Alfred A. Knopf, 2000
  6. ^ "Iran: Ahmad Jannati to head Assembly of Experts". Retrieved 2016-10-03. 
  7. ^ "Rafsanjani breaks taboo over selection of Iran's next supreme leader". the Guardian. 
  8. ^ Emma Borden (9 February 2016). "Everything you need to know about Iran's Assembly of Experts election". The Brookings Institution. 
  9. ^ a b c d "Iranian Government Constitution, English Text". Iran Online. Retrieved 28 July 2012. 
  10. ^ "Iran Announces Second Extension of Voting," Reuters, 23 October 1998.
  11. ^ "Legitimation Crisis". PBS. Retrieved 28 July 2012. 
  12. ^ a b c Discussion and assembly website Archived 7 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ [3] Archived 28 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ "آفتاب – شورای مشورتی اصلاح طلبان برای شوراها". Aftab News. Retrieved 1 June 2012. 
  15. ^ موسوی لاری و تشريح برنامه های مجمع روحانيون در خبرگان Archived 20 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ a b Khalaji, Mehdi (February 2012). "Supreme Succession. Who Will Lead Post-Khamenei Iran?" (Policy Focus (No. 117)). The Washington Institute. Washington DC. 
  17. ^ "Iran Data Portal". 
  18. ^ [4] Archived 6 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  19. ^ "Background Note: Iran". 1 February 2012. Retrieved 1 June 2012. 
  20. ^ "خبرگان رهبری – رييس مجمع تشخيص مصلحت نظام: از مهمترين پيشرف". Retrieved 2012-07-28. 
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 June 2007. Retrieved 2013-12-19. 
  22. ^ "Iran Data Portal". 
  23. ^ Manou & Associates Inc. "Islamic Republic of Iran Members of Assembly of Experts". Iran online. Archived from the original on 21 February 2010. Retrieved 1 June 2012. 
  24. ^ "Iran Data Portal". 
  25. ^ "Head of Iran's top clerical body dies - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East". Al-Monitor. 
  26. ^ Sharafedin, Bozorgmehr. (13 December 2015). "Iran's possible next Supreme Leader being examined: Rafsanjani". Reuters. Retrieved 13 December 2015. Yahoo News website
  27. ^ "Iran election extended amid high turnout". BBC. British Broadcasting Corporation. 26 February 2016. Retrieved 26 February 2016. 
  28. ^ "Hard-line cleric becomes speaker of Assembly of Expert". Associated Press. 24 May 2016. Retrieved 24 May 2016. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°41′16.82″N 51°23′58.72″E / 35.6880056°N 51.3996444°E / 35.6880056; 51.3996444