Guardian Council

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Guardian Council
Ahmad Jannati
since 17 July 1992
Political groups
Dominated by Principlists:[1]
Meeting place
Tehran, Iran
Official website

The Guardian Council, also called Council of Guardians or Constitutional Council (Persian: شورای نگهبان‎, romanizedShūrā-ye Negahbān)[2][3] is an appointed and constitutionally mandated 12-member council that wields considerable power and influence in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The Iranian constitution calls for the council to be composed of six Islamic faqihs (experts in Islamic Law), "conscious of the present needs and the issues of the day" to be selected by the Supreme Leader of Iran, and six jurists, "specializing in different areas of law, to be elected by the Majlis (the Iranian Parliament) from among the Muslim jurists nominated by the Chief Justice",[4] (who, in turn, is also appointed by the Supreme Leader).[5]

The Constitutional Council is charged with interpreting the Constitution of Iran,[6] supervising elections, and approving of candidates for the Assembly of Experts, the President and the Majlis,[7] as well as "ensuring ... the compatibility of the legislation passed by the Islamic Consultative Assembly [i.e. Majlis] ... with the criteria of Islam and the Constitution".[8]

The Council has played a central role in controlling the interpretation of Islamic values in Iranian law in the following ways:

  • Oversees surveillance of potential candidates and determines who can and cannot run for national office[9]
  • Disqualifies reform-minded candidates—including the most well-known candidates—from running for office[10]
  • Vetoes laws passed by the popularly elected Majlis.[11][12]
  • Increased the influence that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (an ideological fighting force separate from the Iranian army) has on the economic and cultural life of the country.[13]

When the 2009 presidential election was announced, popular former president Mohammad Khatami would not discuss his plans to run against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for the Council might have disqualified Khatami as it had other reformists' candidatures, on the grounds that they were not dedicated enough to Islamic values.[14][15]

There have been instances when current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has publicly criticized members of the Assembly of Experts, resulting in their arrest and dismissal. For example, Khamenei publicly called then-member of the Assembly of Experts Ahmad Azari Qomi a traitor, resulting in Qomi's arrest and eventual dismissal from the Assembly of Experts. There have also been instances where the Constitutional Council reversed its ban on particular people after being ordered to do so by Khamenei.[16]

Legislative functions

The Majlis has no legal status without the Constitutional Council.[17] Any bill passed by the Majlis must be reviewed and approved by the Constitutional Council[18][19] to become law.

According to Article 96 of the constitution, the Constitutional Council holds absolute veto power over all legislation approved by the Majlis. It can nullify a law based on two accounts: being against Islamic laws,[20] or being against the constitution. While all the members vote on the laws being compatible with the constitution, only the six clerics vote on them being compatible with Islam.

If any law is rejected, it will be passed back to the Majlis for correction. If the Majlis and the Council of Guardians cannot agree on a case, it is passed up to the Expediency Council for a decision.[21]

The Constitutional Council is uniquely involved in the legislative process, with equal oversight with regards to economic law and social policy, including such controversial topics as abortion. Chapter 6 of the Constitution explains its interworkings with the Islamic Consultative Assembly. Articles 91-97 all fall into the legislative Chapter 6.

Judicial authority

The Council of Guardians also functions similar to a constitutional court. The authority to interpret the constitution is vested in the Council.[22] Interpretative decisions require a three-quarters majority. The Council does not conduct a court hearing where opposing sides are argued.

Electoral authority

Since 1991, all candidates of parliamentary or presidential[23] elections, as well as candidates for the Assembly of Experts, have to be qualified by the Constitutional Council in order to run in the election. For major elections it typically disqualifies most candidates, for example in the 2009 election, 476 men and women applied to the Constitutional Council to seek the presidency, and four were approved.[24]

The Council is accorded "supervision of elections".[25][26] The Constitutional Council interprets the term supervision in Article 99 as "approbation supervision" (Persian: نظارت استصوابی‎, naẓārat-e istiṣwābī)[27] which implies the right to accept or reject the legality of elections and the competency of candidates. This interpretation is in contrast with the idea of "notification supervision" (Persian: نظارت استطلاعی‎, naẓārat-e istitlā‘ī) which does not imply the mentioned approval right.[28] The "evidentiary supervision" (Persian: نظارت استنادی‎, naẓārat-e istinādī), which requires evidences for acceptance or rejection of elections legality and candidates competency, is another interpretation of mentioned article.[29][30]

Role in the 2009 elections

On Monday June 29, 2009, the Constitutional Council certified the results of the controversial election in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected.[31] The Council had completed a recount of 10 percent of the overall votes in order to appease the citizens of Iran.[32] As the "final authority on the election", the Council has declared the election closed.[33] The certification of the results set off a wave of protests, disregarding the Iranian government's ban on street marches.[31]


Increases the role of the army in everyday life

The Council favors military candidates at the expense of reform candidates. This ensures that the ideological Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (separate from the Iranian army) holds a commanding influence over the political, economic, and cultural life of Iran.[13]

Arbitrarily disqualifies candidates from elections

Hadi Khamenei, the brother of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and an adviser in the administration of reformist former President Mohammad Khatami, has said the Constitutional Council's vetting of candidates threatens Iranian democracy. He believes some reformist candidates are wrongly kept from running.[34] In 1998, the Constitutional Council rejected Hadi Khamenei's candidacy for a seat in the Assembly of Experts for "insufficient theological qualifications".[35][36]

After conservative candidates fared poorly in the 2000 parliamentary elections, the Council disqualified more than 3,600 reformist and independent candidates for the 2004 elections.[37]

In the run-up to the 2006 Iranian Assembly of Experts election, all female candidates were disqualified.[38]

The Council disqualified many candidates in the 2008 parliamentary elections. One third of them were members of the outgoing parliament it had previously approved.[13] The Iranian Ministry of the Interior reasons for disqualification included narcotics addiction or involvement in drug-smuggling, connections to the Shah's pre-revolutionary government, lack of belief in or insufficient practice of Islam, being "against" the Islamic Republic, or having connections to foreign intelligence services.[13]

Rule by unelected leaders

This unelected Council frequently vetoes bills passed by the popularly elected legislature.[38] It repeatedly vetoes bills that are in favour of women’s rights, electoral reform, the prohibition of torture and ratification of international human rights treaties.[37]

Rigging results after the election in favor of conservatives

The Guardian Council has been criticized for politically-motivated ousting pro-Reform candidates who had won the election, without providing legal justification or factual evidence. Examples of such interventions by the Guardian Council are:


The Council is composed of Islamic clerics and lawyers.[42] Membership is for phased six-year terms: half the membership changes every three years.

The Supreme Leader (Iran's Head of State) directly appoints the six clerics,[43] and may dismiss them at will.[44] The head of the judicial system of Iran nominates six lawyers for confirmation by the Majlis.[43][45]

On March 13, 2021, the Iranian Constitutional Council officially launched its English service.The English website was inaugurated during the regular monthly press briefing of the spokesman of the Constitutional Council, Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, in Tehran. The website,, has five main sections: News, Multimedia, Members, Legislation, and the Constitution.


Current members



Historic membership

Name Period
1980–86 1986–92 1992–98 1998–04 2004–10 2010–16 2016–00
Clerics Ahmad Jannati Yes
Mohammad Momen N/A Yes N/A
Mohammad Emami Kashani N/A Yes N/A
Gholamreza Rezvani N/A Yes N/A
Abolghasem Khazali N/A Yes N/A
Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi N/A Yes N/A
Abdolrahim Rabbani Shirazi Yes N/A
Lotfollah Safi Golpaygani Yes N/A
Yousef Sanei Yes N/A
Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani Yes N/A
Mohammad Mohammadi Gilani N/A Yes N/A
Reza Ostadi N/A Yes N/A
Hassan Taheri Khorramabadi N/A Yes N/A
Mohammad Yazdi N/A Yes N/A
Mohammad Reza Modarresi-Yazdi N/A Yes
Mohammad Mehdi Rabbani-Amlashi Yes N/A
Sadegh Larijani N/A Yes N/A Yes (until 2021)
Mehdi Shabzendedar Jahromi N/A Yes
Alireza Arafi N/A Yes
Ahmad Khatami N/A Yes
Ahmad Hosseini Khorasani N/A Yes
Jurists Mohsen Hadavi Yes N/A
Mehdi Hadavi Yes N/A
Mohammad Salehi Yes N/A
Ali Arad Yes N/A Yes N/A
Hossein Mehrpour Yes N/A
Goudarz Eftekhar Jahromi Yes N/A
Jalal Madani N/A Yes N/A
Khosro Bijani Yes N/A
Hassan Fakheri N/A Yes N/A
Mohammad Reza Alizadeh N/A Yes N/A
Hassan Habibi N/A Yes N/A
Ahmad Alizadeh N/A Yes N/A
Mohammad Reza Abbasifard N/A Yes N/A
Reza Zavare'i N/A Yes N/A
Ebrahim Azizi N/A Yes N/A
Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei N/A Yes N/A Yes
Gholamhossein Elham N/A Yes N/A
Abbas Ka'bi N/A Yes N/A
Mohsen Esmaeili N/A Yes N/A
Mohammad Salimi N/A Yes N/A
Siamak Rahpeyk N/A Yes
Hossein-Ali Amiri N/A Yes N/A
Sam Savadkouhi N/A Yes N/A
Nejatollah Ebrahimian N/A Yes N/A
Fazlollah Mousavi N/A Yes
Mohammad Dehghan N/A Yes (until 2021)
Mohammadhassan Sadeghi Moghaddam N/A Yes
Hadi Tahan Nazif N/A Yes
Gholamreza Molabeigi N/A Yes (from 2021)
Note: Each period represents a six-year term from July to June and the number of members in a given period may exceed the maximum twelve-members quota because of the random rotations prescribed in the law.[46]

See also


  1. ^ Shaul, Bakhash (12 September 2011). "Iran's Conservatives: The Headstrong New Bloc". Frontline. PBS. Retrieved March 10, 2015.
  2. ^ Schirazi, Asghar (2003). "GUARDIAN COUNCIL". In Yarshater, Ehsan (ed.). Encyclopædia Iranica. XI. New York, NY: Encyclopaedia Iranica Foundation. pp. 379–382. ISBN 0933273711.
  3. ^ "Council of Guardians | Definition, Role, Selection, & History". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2021-03-17.
  4. ^ Inc., Manou & Associates. "Iranian Government Constitution, English Text". Archived from the original on 2011-06-17.
  5. ^
  6. ^ Article 98 of the constitution
  7. ^ Article 99 of the constitution
  8. ^ Articles 96 and 94 of the constitution.
  9. ^ The Guardian Council Expands Power: Election Monitoring Boards, Arseh Sevom, Arseh Sevom, Feb 18, 2020. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  10. ^, Arash Azizi, Atlantic Council, February 14, 2020. Retrieved February 24, 2020.
  11. ^ Whose Iran?, Laura Secor, The New York Times, January 28, 2007. Retrieved September 22, 2008.
  12. ^ Iran: Voices Struggling To Be Heard, U.S. Department of State Fact Sheet, April 9, 2004. Retrieved September 22, 2008.
  13. ^ a b c d The Revolutionary Guards' Role in Iranian Politics, Ali Alfoneh, Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2008; accessed via AEI's website on September 22, 2008.
  14. ^ Khatami reluctant to discuss candidacy Archived 2009-04-27 at the Wayback Machine, Maryam Sinaiee, The National, September 21, 2008.
  15. ^ Split hard-liners hold Iran parliament, AP via USA Today, March 16, 2008.
  16. ^ Staff; agencies (24 May 2005). "Iran reverses ban on reformist candidates" – via The Guardian.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ IRANIAN LEGISLATURE APPROVES FUNDS FOR GASOLINE IMPORTS Archived 2006-11-01 at the Wayback Machine provides an example the need for approval of the Guardian Council.
  20. ^ Article 4 Archived 2006-12-09 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Article 112 Archived 2006-12-09 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Article 98 Archived 2006-12-09 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ Article 110 Clause 9 Archived 2006-12-09 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Eqbali, Aresu (29 May 2009). "Iranian women need more rights: candidate's wife". AFP. Retrieved 25 June 2009.
  25. ^ Article 99 Archived 2006-12-09 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ خانه ملت Archived 2006-10-11 at
  27. ^ "سايت اطلاع رساني شوراي نگهبان/آشنايي با شوراي نگهبان".
  28. ^ " نشريه حقوق اساسي، شماره 21".
  29. ^ Mellat Electronic Newspaper Archived May 3, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^[permanent dead link]
  31. ^ a b Michael Slackman (June 29, 2009). "Iran Council Certifies Disputed Election Results". The New York Times. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  32. ^ "Lebanon's President congratulates Admadinejad on re-election". Washington TV. June 30, 2009. Retrieved June 30, 2009.[dead link]
  33. ^ "Iran Electoral Body: Won't Accept More Election Objections". EasyBourse. June 30, 2009. Retrieved June 30, 2009.[permanent dead link]
  34. ^ "Khamenei's brother attacks reformist purge". BBC News. 2000-01-12. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
  35. ^ A. William Samii (2000-01-17). "Candidates rejected and Guardians Criticized". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Iran Report. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
  36. ^ "Iranian Elections, 1997-2001". PBS. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
  37. ^ a b "Overview of Human Rights Issues in Iran". Human Rights Watch. 2005-01-13. Archived from the original on 2013-04-14. Retrieved 2009-07-28.
  38. ^ a b The Iranian Regime: Human Rights and Civil Liberties Under Siege, U.S. State Department Fact Sheet, April 18, 2007. Retrieved September 23, 2008.
  39. ^ a b Samii, Bill (19 June 2000), "Iran Report", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 3 (24)
  40. ^ Sahimi, Muhammad (11 August 2009), Patriots and Reformists: Behzad Nabavi and Mostafa Tajzadeh, Tehran Bureau
  41. ^ Erdbrink, Thomas (11 May 2016), "She Won a Seat in Iran's Parliament, but Hard-Liners Had Other Plans", The New York Times
  42. ^ "". Retrieved 2010-08-21.
  43. ^ a b Article 91 Archived 2006-12-09 at the Wayback Machine
  44. ^ Article 110 Archived 2006-12-09 at the Wayback Machine
  45. ^ Inc., Manou & Associates. "Iranian Government Constitution, English Text". Archived from the original on 2011-06-17.
  46. ^ Yasmin Alem (2011), Duality by Design: The Iranian Electoral System, Washington, D.C.: International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), p. 19, ISBN 978-1-931459-59-4

External links

Coordinates: 35°41′16.36″N 51°24′4.35″E / 35.6878778°N 51.4012083°E / 35.6878778; 51.4012083