The purpose of this study is to analyses the facts and circumstances that surround the upcoming Eighth Majlis elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran, scheduled to take place on the 14th March 2008. We endeavor to look at the different dimensions surrounding legislation, laws, the electoral process, candidacy, female participation and the internal debate within Iranian politics. This paper also discusses the matter of disqualification, the ongoing conflict between Iranian factions and the impact and effect that international politics and hard play has on the Iranian domestic scene. Our main concern is to explore the dynamics within Iranian internal politics, and to make sense of the power struggle within the Iranian political system. As a pre-election report, our intention is to merely observe the developments running up to the election and make forecasts as to its potential outcome.
The legislative branch will be the focus of this paper, for it is within this branch that two potent institutions reside: the Majlis (the Iranian Parliament, also referred to as the Islamic Consultative Assembly) and the Guardian Council. The Majlis is comprised of 290 members who are elected by the direct vote of the people for four years, while the Guardian Council consists of twelve members, six of whom are Islamic clerics and six others who are civilian jurists; they serve a term of six years. All legislation must first be approved by the Majlis and then be ratified by the Guardian Council; they are then signed into laws by the President. The powers and functions of the Majlis are specified by Articles 71-90 of the Iranian constitution.
The Guardian Council is, in effect, an upper house of parliament with the power to vote out the lower house’s (i.e. the Majlis’s) resolutions. The Guardian Council is assigned to check the laws passed by the Majlis, compare them with the provisions of the Islamic canon and the constitution, and ratify them, or return them to the Majlis for amendment. The Guardian Council can be seen to flex its muscles not only while an elected Majlis is in session, but also in the run-up to the election of a new Majlis. This is indeed apparent in this month’s approaching Eighth Majlis election, most notably surrounding the Guardian Council’s disqualification choices.
A second publication will be later published, which will deal with the outcome of the Eighth Majlis from a post-election perspective. It will deal with the political map of the new Majlis, assess the direction of future domestic politics of Iran and will also study the international reaction to the electoral result.