1979 Iranian constitutional referendum

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1979 Iranian constitutional referendum

2–3 December 1979

Votes %
Yes 15,680,329 99.50%
No 78,516 0.50%
Valid votes 15,758,845 100.00%
Invalid or blank votes 111 0.00%
Total votes 15,758,956 100.00%

A constitutional referendum was held in Iran on 2 and 3 December 1979.[1][2] The new Islamic constitution was approved by 99.5% of voters.[3]

The referendum was held by the Council of the Islamic Revolution, because Bazargan's Interim Government—which oversaw the previous referendum—had resigned in protest to the U.S. Embassy hostage crisis.[4]

A day before the referendum, when the mourning of Ashura was practiced, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini said those who will not vote tomorrow, will help Americans and desecrate Shohada (Martyrs).[5]

Alongside Islamic Republican Party, the communist Tudeh Party of Iran urged people to vote yes, expressing its support for "Imam's line";[6] while Freedom Movement of Iran requested a yes vote on the grounds that the alternative was an anarchy.[5]

Others, including leftists, secular nationalists and Islamist followers of Mohammad Kazem Shariatmadari called for a boycott. The turnout among Sunni minorities in Kurdistan and Sistan and Baluchestan Provinces, as well as Shariatmadari's home Azerbaijan was low and number of votes fell down in comparison to the referandum held in March. Historian Ervand Abrahamian estimates that nearly 17% of the people did not support the constitution.[7]


The supplement to the constitution (fundamental law) adopted in 1907. Some instances of European fundamental law were contradictions with Shia doctrine but they were accommodated. At that time there were no attempts at developing the Islamic fundamental laws.[8] In 1979, the Pahlavi dynasty was ousted and an Islamic republic was established at the end of March by holding the Iranian Islamic Republic referendum.[9] The first day of April 1979 was entitled as the first day of a "Government of God", with the 2,500 year Persian Empire in Iran was ended by Ayatollah Khomeini. He stated the necessary next step was in ratifying the Constitution. On 12 January 1979, the Assembly of Experts election was held and Ayatollah Khomeini asked Iranians to select their representatives. On 3 and 4 August 1979 the Assembly of Experts as a Constituent assembly commenced activities with 72[10] representatives from all over of Iran, and Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani read the message of Ayatollah Khomeini for them that the "Constitution and other laws in this Republic must be based one hundred per cent on Islam."[11] The convocations of the Assembly of Experts lasted until 15 November 1979, and finally the new Islamic constitution was approved by at least two-thirds of the representatives.[11] In June 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini approved the draft by applying minor changes and he stated that the draft must be submitted to a referendum.[8]

New constitution[edit]

The proposed new constitution would make Iran an Islamic republic, introduce direct elections for the presidency, create a unicameral parliament, and require any constitutional changes to go to a referendum.[12]

The new constitution was codified according to Shia Islam. Therefore there was an appendix in which verses of Quran and traditions were cited in support of many articles. Among the applied changes was a chapter on leadership replacing a chapter on monarchy. Two chapters about foreign policy and mass media was added. Some articles from the previous constitution were preserved, such as equality before the law (Articles 19-20); guarantees of the security of life, property, honor, and domicile (Articles 22, 39); freedom of opinion and choice of profession (Articles 23, 28); the rights to due process (Articles 32-36) and to the privacy of communications (Article 25); and a requirement for public deliberations of the Majlis under normal circumstances (Article 69), as well as parliamentary procedure and definition of the rights and responsibilities of the ministers of the Majlis (Articles. 70, 74, 88-90).[8]

Party policies[edit]

Position Organizations Ref
Islamic Republican Party [5]
Freedom Movement [13]
Tudeh Party [6]
National Front [14]
National Democratic Front
Muslim People's Republic Party [15]
People's Mojahedin Organization [5]
People's Fedai (Majority) [5]
People's Fedai (Minority) [5]
People's Fedai Guerrillas [5]
Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan [16]
Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan [16]


Choice Votes %
For 15,680,329 99.5
Against 78,516 0.5
Invalid/blank votes 111
Total 15,758,956 100
Registered voters ~22,000,000

Source: Nohlen et al.[3]


  1. ^ Mahmood T. Davari (1 October 2004). The Political Thought of Ayatollah Murtaza Mutahhari: An Iranian Theoretician of the Islamic State. Routledge. p. 138. ISBN 978-1-134-29488-6.
  2. ^ Eur (31 October 2002). The Middle East and North Africa 2003. Psychology Press. p. 414. ISBN 978-1-85743-132-2.
  3. ^ a b Nohlen, Dieter; Grotz, Florian; Hartmann, Christof (2001). "Iran". Elections in Asia: A Data Handbook. Vol. I. Oxford University Press. p. 72. ISBN 0-19-924958-X.
  4. ^ Gasiorowski, Mark (2016). "Islamic Republic of Iran". The Government and Politics of the Middle East and North Africa. Westview Press. p. 279. ISBN 9780813349947.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Ervand Abrahamian (1989), Radical Islam: the Iranian Mojahedin, Society and culture in the modern Middle East, vol. 3, I.B.Tauris, p. 58, ISBN 9781850430773
  6. ^ a b Abdy Javadzadeh (2010), Iranian Irony: Marxists Becoming Muslims, Dorrance Publishing, p. 68, ISBN 9781434982926
  7. ^ Abrahamian, Ervand (2008). A History of Modern Iran. Cambridge University Press. p. 169. ISBN 978-0521528917.
  8. ^ a b c Arjomand, Amir. "CONSTITUTION OF THE ISLAMIC REPUBLIC". iranicaonline.
  9. ^ Inozemtsev (1982). The Iranian Revolution of 1979: Theoretical Approaches and Economic Causes. Progress Publishers. ISBN 9780549835035.
  10. ^ Staff Writer. "approval of Iranian constitutional". Allameh Tabataba'i University. Archived from the original on 2016-08-16. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  11. ^ a b Ramazani, Rouhollah K. (1980). "Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran". Middle East Journal. Middle East Institute. 34 (2): 181–204. JSTOR 4326018.
  12. ^ Iran, 3 December 1979: Constitution Direct Democracy (in German)
  13. ^ Lynn Berat (1995). Between States: Interim Governments in Democratic Transitions. Cambridge University Press. p. 141. ISBN 978-0-521-48498-5.
  14. ^ Axworthy, Michael (2016), Revolutionary Iran: A History of the Islamic Republic, Oxford University Press, p. 170, ISBN 9780190468965
  15. ^ Katouzian, Homa; Hossein Shahidi (2008). Iran in the 21st Century: Politics, economics and conflict. Routledge. p. 55. ISBN 9781134077601.
  16. ^ a b Romano, David (2006). The Kurdish Nationalist Movement: Opportunity, Mobilization and Identity. Cambridge Middle East studies. Vol. 22. Cambridge University Press. p. 236. ISBN 978-0-521-85041-4. OCLC 61425259.