Constitution Writing & Conflict Resolution
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Iran 1989

The 1979 constitution contained no provision for amendment nor did it contain provisions that set forth the methods for choosing the vali faqh, or Supreme Leader. The functions of a Prime Minister in a system that had both a President and a vali faqh at its head, had also become problematic. However, constitutional change was forestalled from 1980 to 1988 by a long and bloody war with Iraq. Toward the end of the war, Khomeini, who said it was no longer useful, disbanded the single legal political party, the Islamic Republican Party. In 1988, political parties were legalized and 18 filed for official recognition in December. By 1989, the declining health of Khomeini, who had served as vali faqh since establishment of the Islamic Republic in 1979, led some political leaders to argue that the time had come for some constitutional change. In April1989, Khomeni established a Constitutional Review Council and dictated the goals for revision and the areas to be revised. Twenty members of the Council were appointed by Khomeini, five by the Majlis (the Parliament). The President and head of the highest court were members of the Council as were representatives from the Council of Experts, the Expediency Council ("Assembly for the Discernment of What Is Best) and representatives from the executive, judicial and legislative branches. A secretariat was established to help the council in its work.

In its first session the Council established four working committees organized around the basic themes for amendment. It established a two-month timetable for its work, a schedule that was extended because of the death of Khomeini on June 3, 1989. He was replaced as vali faqh by President Ali Khameni. While the Council invited written submissions from "informed" people, there was no other opportunity for public input. Monarchists and Communist opposition groups criticized the makeup of the Council and its procedures. While the council sessions were closed, there appear to have been some public updates after each plenary session. At least one of these sessions was broadcast. Some members of the Council preached public sermons related to its work. The amendments eliminated the office of Prime Minister, spelled out procedures and standards for selection of the vali faqh and defined the role of the Expediency Council. It also outlined procedures for constitutional amendment. In June 1989, the Majlis authorized a referendum. The changes were to be ratified first by the vali faqh, then a week later in a popular referendum that coincided with election of a President. On July 18, 1989, voters in favor of the constitutional changes used green ballots, those opposed used red. A simple majority was sufficient to approve. Ali Akbar Hashimi Rafsanjani, a member of the Constitutional Review Council, was elected President.

 

 

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