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Iran’s Upcoming Presidential Election

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The following is a guest post by Dr. Sanaz Alasti who is currently a Scholar in Residence at the Law Library of Congress.  Dr. Alasti is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Lamar University and an Iranian legal scholar.

Iran’s original parliament building (Photo by Dr. Sanaz Alasti).

On June 14, 2013, the Islamic Republic of Iran will hold its eleventh presidential election.  Under the Iranian Constitution the President is the second highest ranking official in Iran after the Supreme Leader and carries out the functions of the Chief Executive.  In Iran, the Supreme Leader has the highest political and religious authority.  He authorizes domestic and foreign policy, serves as head of the military, has broad appointment powers, and has the sole power to declare war.

This year’s presidential ballot in Iran was originally to carry the names of eight candidates, but two candidates withdrew earlier this week. These candidates were chosen by the Guardian Council from the hundreds of potential candidates who registered for the election.  Information on all the candidates and their programs is available on the website of Iran’s Ministry of Interior.

The Guardian Council is composed of six clerics and six lawyers appointed by the Supreme Leader and the judiciary.   It has the power to supervise presidential and parliamentary elections, interpret the constitution, and veto parliamentary resolutions.  During the elections, the unique role of the Guardian Council expands.

Presidential elections are conducted according to the Iran Presidential Electoral Act of 1985 and 2012 Amendments.  The election law gives the Guardian Council the right to approve or reject registered candidates within five days after registration, but no later than ten days before the election.  Only ideologically acceptable individuals may stand in Iran’s presidential elections.  These decisions can be appealed.  They are based on Article 115 of the nation’s Constitution, which requires that

The President shall be elected from among religious and political personalities possessing the following qualifications: Iranian origin; Iranian nationality; administrative capacity and resourcefulness; a good past-record; trustworthiness and piety; convinced belief in the fundamental principles of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the official religion of the country.

Some legal observers believe that this ideological requirement restricts the right to equal opportunity to run for political office.  This right is guaranteed by the ICCPR and other international agreements regarding free and fair elections to which Iran is a party.

The Ministry of Interior administers the elections in Iran.  It announces the candidates approved by the Guardian Council and divides among all candidates an equal share of air time on Iranian state radio and television stations for campaigning.  Campaign activities usually last for one to two weeks after the official candidate list is announced.  Campaigning and all other campaign related activities must end twenty-four hours before the election day.

In Iran, election day is always a Friday. The casting of votes outside and inside the country must take place in one day during a ten hour period.  If necessary, this time frame can be extended by the decision of the Minister of Interior.

Voting is not compulsory in Iran, but all Iranian citizens eighteen years of age and older are allowed to participate in elections.  Iranian women have had voting rights since 1962; however, there are some restrictions upon women who run for public office and there are no women on the presidential ballot.  Observers are allowed to be present at the polling station to monitor elections, and the details of their involvement are defined by the Iran Presidential Electoral Act.

On election day in Iran, voters must bring the original copy of their birth certificate and enter the stations in order to register and cast their votes.  Counting and recording of the ballots and truncated forms is conducted by the members of the polling station staff at the end of the election day.  The conclusion of elections is declared by the Guardian Council, and then the Minister of Interior announces the final results of elections through mass media after the ballots cast inside and outside the country have been counted.

Here at the Law Library of Congress, we will continue to follow legal developments in Iran and are available to recommend official, authoritative resources on Iranian law from the Library’s collection to our readers interested in Iranian elections.

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