Assembly of Experts for Constitution
Assembly of Experts for Constitution
|4th constituent assembly|
|Founded||15 August 1979|
|Disbanded||15 November 1979|
|Majority (55 to 58 seats)|
|Multi-seat districts: Plurality-at-large voting|
Single-seat districts: First-past-the-post voting
|3 August 1979|
|Senate House, Tehran, Iran|
|Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran|
Assembly of Experts for Constitution (Persian: مجلس خبرگان قانون اساسی), also translated the Assembly for the Final Review of the Constitution (AFRC), was a constituent assembly in Iran, elected in the summer of 1979 to write a new constitution for the Islamic Republic Government. It convened on August 18 to consider the draft constitution written earlier, completed its deliberations rewriting the constitution on November 15, and saw the constitution it had written approved by referendum on December 2 and 3, 1979, by over 98 percent of the vote.
Prior to its election a "Revolutionary council" had unveiled a draft constitution on June 18 which was written by Hasan Habibi. Aside from substituting a strong president, on the Gaullist model, for the monarchy, the constitution did not differ markedly from Iran's 1906 constitution and did not give the clerics an important role in the new state structure. Ayatollah Khomeini was prepared to submit this draft, virtually unmodified, to a national referendum or, barring that, to an appointed council of forty representatives who could advise on, but not revise, the document. Ironically, as it turned out, it was the leftist who most vehemently rejected this procedure and demanded that the constitution be submitted for full-scale review by a constituent assembly. Ayatollah Shariatmadari supported these demands.
According to Shaul Bakhash, the seventy-three-member Assembly of Experts was made up of 55 clerics, 50 of whom were candidates of the Islamic Republic Party (IRP). About a dozen members were independents or represented other parties and voted against the controversial articles of the constitution. According to Sepehr Zabir, pro-IRP faction were 50% while 10% were better-known clerics such as Mahmoud Taleghani who were closer secular groupings. 20% were non-clerics embracing theocracy and the remaining 20% were followers of Abolhassan Banisadr and Mehdi Bazargan. Organizations such as the National Front, People's Fedai Guerrillas and People's Mujahedin of Iran were totally absent. A seat of Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou of Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan remained vacant after his credential was rejected.
The controversial articles in question were ones that revamped the draft constitution to include principles of Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists (velayat-e faqih) and establish the basis for a state dominated by the Shia clergy. The article was passed with 53 votes in favor, while 8 cast votes against and 5 abstained.
Members of the opposition bloc were reportedly the following:
- Abolhassan Banisadr
- Mahmoud Taleghani
- Ezzatollah Sahabi
- Ali Golzadeh Ghafouri
- Nasser Makarem Shirazi
- Ahmad Nourbakhsh
- Rahmatollah Moghaddam Maraghei
- Hamidollah Mir-Moradzehi
- Mohammad-Javad Hojjati Kermani
Representatives of ethnoreligious minorities are also likely to have voted with the opposition. They were:
- Hrair Khalatian (Armenian)
- Sergen Bait Ushana (Assyrian)
- Aziz Daneshrad (Jewish)
- Rostam Shahzadi (Zoroastrian)
The assembly's work was part of a highly contentious time during the Iranian Revolution that saw the breakup of the original alliance of secular, radical, religious, and theocratic groups that all united to overthrow the Shah. It was to the Assembly that Khomeini proclaimed "the velayat-e faqih is not something created by the Assembly of Experts. It is something that God has ordained,"  which clashed with comments such as, "our intention is not that religious leaders should themselves administer the state,"  made before the victory of the revolution.
The Assembly of Experts for Constitution is not to be confused with the later Assembly of Experts of the Leadership, which is a body created by the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran to elect and supervise Iran's Supreme Leader.
References & notes
- Sussan Siavoshi (2017), Montazeri, Cambridge University Press, pp. 107–109, ISBN 9781107146310
- Bakhash, Reign of the Ayatollah's (1984) p.83
- Assembly of Experts
- History of Iran: Iran after the victory of 1979's Revolution
- Bakhash, Reign of the Ayatollah's (1984) p.81
- Zabir, Sepehr (2012). Iran Since the Revolution (RLE Iran D). Taylor & Francis. pp. 34–35. ISBN 1136833005.
- "The 1979 Assembly of Experts for the Drafting of the Constitution Election", The Iran Social Science Data Portal, Princeton University, archived from the original on 2015-09-24, retrieved 10 August 2015
- Yvette Hovsepian-Bearce (2016), The Political Ideology of Ayatollah Khamenei, Routledge, p. 23, ISBN 978-1-315-74835-1
- Saffari, Said (1993), "The Legitimation of the Clergy's Right to Rule in the Iranian Constitution of 1979" (PDF), British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Taylor & Francis, 20 (1): 64–82
- Sanasarian, Eliz (2000), "Religious Minorities in Iran", British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Cambridge Middle East Studies, Cambridge University Press, 13: 64–82, ISBN 113942985X
- Schirazi, Constitution of Iran (1997) p.31-32
- Keddie, Modern Iran (2003) p.247
- Schirazi, Constitution of Iran (1997) p.24-48
- International Herald Tribune, 24, October 1979
- from Le Monde newspaper October 25, 1978, "in one of his last interviews before leaving Paris," p.14 of The Last Revolution by Robin Wright, c2000) (source: Benard and Khalilzad, The Government of God)