I’ve been trying to understand Iran’s form of government. They have a President, who is elected by the people, and is the second most powerful person in the country. That sounds democratic. But he’s not the top dude.
Above the president is the Supreme Leader who controls the military and police. He also appoints the heads of the judiciary, and state radio and television networks. And he has a great catch-all power described as being “responsible for delineation and supervision of ‘the general policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran.’" In effect, he can diddle with just about anything that starts getting too un-Islamic or generally harmful to the country in his opinion. So it’s a broad power.
The Supreme Leader is chosen by the Assembly of Experts, based on his qualifications and his esteem. They can also dismiss him.
The Assembly of Experts is a bunch of learned clerics who are elected by the public in democratic elections. They meet once a year. Their meetings are secret, but they’ve never been known to challenge the decisions of the Supreme Leader.
Recapping, the citizens of Iran elect members of the Assembly of Experts, who in turn select the Supreme Leader, and can fire him if necessary. He’s essentially in charge of national security and keeping things appropriately Islamic.
The president is elected in a national system and handles the other governmental functions such as the economy, education, etc.
How’s that not as democratic as the system in the United States?
Granted, the Supreme Leader has a lot of power. But he’s not a dictator. He’s elected by people who are themselves elected. It reminds me of the Electoral College.
The Supreme Leader can effectively diddle with anything he wants under the umbrella of supervising the “general policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran." But that sounds a lot like our own Supreme Court, who are not elected officials. A lot of Americans think the Supreme Court is more active than it ought to be.
I suppose someone is going to tell me that Iran’s system of government is really a sham, and that the people in power are only giving the appearance of a democratic system. For example, the Supreme Leader can determine who is allowed to run for office in the first place. How’s that worse than the American version in which big money interests only allow people named Clinton or Bush to get elected president? It’s different, but is it functionally less democratic?
For more on Iran’s system of government, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran
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