since 17 July 1992
|Dominated by Principlists:|
|This article is part of a series on the|
politics and government of
|Government of Islamic Republic of Iran|
The Guardian Council of the Constitution (Persian: شورای نگهبان قانون اساسی, Shūrā-ye negahbān-e qānūn-e āsāsī) is an appointed and constitutionally mandated 12-member council that wields considerable power and influence in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Iranian constitution calls for the council to be composed of six Islamic faqihs (experts in Islamic Law), "conscious of the present needs and the issues of the day" to be selected by the Supreme Leader of Iran, and six jurists, "specializing in different areas of law, to be elected by the Majlis (the Iranian Parliament) from among the Muslim jurists nominated by the Head of the Judiciary", (who, in turn, is also appointed by the Supreme Leader).
The Guardian Council is charged with interpreting the Constitution of Iran, supervising elections, and approving of candidates for the Assembly of Experts, the President and the Majlis,, as well as "ensuring ... the compatibility of the legislation passed by the Islamic Consultative Assembly [i.e. Majlis] ... with the criteria of Islam and the Constitution".
The Council has played a central role in controlling the interpretation of Islamic values in Iranian law in the following ways:
- Oversees surveillance of potential candidates and determines who can and cannot run for national office
- Disqualifies reform-minded candidates—including the most well-known candidates—from running for office 
- Vetoes laws passed by the popularly elected Majlis.
- Increased the influence that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (an ideological fighting force separate from the Iranian army) has on the economic and cultural life of the country.
When the 2009 presidential election was announced, popular former president Mohammad Khatami would not discuss his plans to run against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for the Council might have disqualified Khatami as it had other reformists' candidatures, on the grounds that they were not dedicated enough to Islamic values.
There have been instances when current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has publicly criticized members of the Assembly of Experts, resulting in their arrest and dismissal. For example, Khamenei publicly called then-member of the Assembly of Experts Ahmad Azari Qomi a traitor, resulting in Qomi's arrest and eventual dismissal from the Assembly of Experts. There have also been instances where the Guardian Council reversed its ban on particular people after being ordered to do so by Khamenei.
According to Article 96 of the constitution, the Guardian Council holds veto power over all legislation approved by the Majlis. It can nullify a law based on two accounts: being against Islamic laws, or being against the constitution. While all the members vote on the laws being compatible with the constitution, only the six clerics vote on them being compatible with Islam.
If any law is rejected, it will be passed back to the Majlis for correction. If the Majlis and the Council of Guardians cannot agree on a case, it is passed up to the Expediency Council for a decision.
The Guardian Council is uniquely involved in the legislative process, with equal oversight with regards to economic law and social policy, including such controversial topics as abortion. Chapter 6 of the Constitution explains its interworkings with the Islamic Consultative Assembly. Articles 91-97 all fall into the legislative Chapter 6.
The Council of Guardians also functions similar to a constitutional court. The authority to interpret the constitution is vested in the Council. Interpretative decisions require a three-quarters majority. The Council does not conduct a court hearing where opposing sides are argued.
Since 1991, all candidates of parliamentary or presidential elections, as well as candidates for the Assembly of Experts, have to be qualified by the Guardian Council in order to run in the election. For major elections it typically disqualifies most candidates, for example in the 2009 election, 476 men and women applied to the Guardian Council to seek the presidency, and four were approved.
The Council is accorded "supervision of elections". The Guardian Council interprets the term supervision in Article 99 as "approbation supervision" (Persian: نظارت استصوابی, naẓārat-e istiṣwābī) which implies the right to accept or reject the legality of elections and the competency of candidates. This interpretation is in contrast with the idea of "notification supervision" (Persian: نظارت استطلاعی, naẓārat-e istitlā‘ī) which does not imply the mentioned approval right. The "evidentiary supervision" (Persian: نظارت استنادی, naẓārat-e istinādī), which requires evidences for acceptance or rejection of elections legality and candidates competency, is another interpretation of mentioned article.
Role in the 2009 elections
On Monday June 29, 2009, the Guardian Council certified the results of the controversial election in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected. The Council had completed a recount of 10 percent of the overall votes in order to appease the citizens of Iran. As the "final authority on the election", the Council has declared the election closed. The certification of the results set off a wave of protests, disregarding the Iranian government's ban on street marches. The Iranian intelligence chief alleged that western and "Zionist" forces were responsible for inciting the protests.
Increases the role of the army in everyday life
The Council favors military candidates at the expense of reform candidates. This ensures that the ideological Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (separate from the Iranian army) holds a commanding influence over the political, economic, and cultural life of Iran.
Arbitrarily disqualifies candidates from elections
Hadi Khamenei, the brother of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and an adviser in the administration of reformist former President Mohammad Khatami, has said the Guardian Council's vetting of candidates threatens Iranian democracy. He believes some reformist candidates are wrongly kept from running. In 1998, the Guardian Council rejected Hadi Khamenei's candidacy for a seat in the Assembly of Experts for "insufficient theological qualifications".
After conservative candidates fared poorly in the 2000 parliamentary elections, the Council disqualified more than 3,600 reformist and independent candidates for the 2004 elections.
The Council disqualified many candidates in the 2008 parliamentary elections. One third of them were members of the outgoing parliament it had previously approved. The Iranian Ministry of the Interior gave nebulous, arbitrary reasons for disqualifying the majority of the candidates, including narcotics addiction or involvement in drug-smuggling, connections to the Shah's pre-revolutionary government, lack of belief in or insufficient practice of Islam, being "against" the Islamic Republic, or having connections to foreign intelligence services.
Rule by unelected leaders
This unelected Council frequently vetoes bills passed by the popularly elected legislature. It repeatedly vetoes bills in favor of women’s rights, electoral reform, the prohibition of torture and ratification of international human rights treaties.
The Supreme Leader (Iran's Head of State) directly appoints the six clerics, and may dismiss them at will. The head of the judicial system of Iran nominates six lawyers for confirmation by the Majlis.
|Mohammad Emami Kashani||N/A||Yes||N/A|
|Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi||N/A||Yes|
|Abdolrahim Rabbani Shirazi||Yes||N/A|
|Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani||Yes||N/A|
|Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani||Yes||N/A|
|Mohammad Mohammadi Gilani||N/A||Yes||N/A|
|Hassan Taheri Khorramabadi||N/A||Yes||N/A|
|Mohammad Reza Modarresi-Yazdi||N/A||Yes|
|Mohammad Mehdi Rabbani-Amlashi||Yes||N/A|
|Mehdi Shabzendedar Jahromi||N/A||Yes|
|Goudarz Eftekhar Jahromi||Yes||N/A|
|Mohammad Reza Alizadeh||N/A||Yes||N/A|
|Mohammad Reza Abbasifard||N/A||Yes||N/A|
|Note: Each period represents a six-year term from July to June and the number of members in a given period may exceed the maximum twelve-members quota because of the random rotations prescribed in the law.|
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- Photos of members from official website (in Persian)