Assembly of Experts for Constitution
Assembly of Experts for Constitution (Persian: مجلس خبرگان قانون اساسی) was a constituent assembly in Iran, elected in the summer of 1979 to write a new constitution for the Islamic Republic Government. It convened on August 18 to consider the draft constitution written earlier, completed its deliberations rewriting the constitution on November 15, and saw the constitution it had written approved by referendum on December 2 and 3, 1979, by over 98 percent of the vote.
Prior to its election a "Revolutionary council" had unveiled a draft constitution on June 18 which was written by Hasan Habibi. Aside from substituting a strong president, on the Gaullist model, for the monarchy, the constitution did not differ markedly from Iran's 1906 constitution and did not give the clerics an important role in the new state structure. Ayatollah Khomeini was prepared to submit this draft, virtually unmodified, to a national referendum or, barring that, to an appointed council of forty representatives who could advise on, but not revise, the document. Ironically, as it turned out, it was the leftist who most vehemently rejected this procedure and demanded that the constitution be submitted for full-scale review by a constituent assembly. Ayatollah Shariatmadari supported these demands.
The seventy-three-member Assembly of Experts was made up of 55 clerics, 50 of whom were candidates of the Islamic Republic Party. About a dozen members were independents or represented other parties and voted against the controversial articles of the constitution. The controversial articles in question were ones that revamped the draft constitution to include principles of Guardianship of the Islamic Jurists (velayat-e faqih) and establish the basis for a state dominated by the Shia clergy.
The assembly's work was part of a highly contentious time during the Iranian Revolution that saw the breakup of the original alliance of secular, radical, religious, and theocratic groups that all united to overthrow the Shah. It was to the Assembly that Khomeini proclaimed "the velayat-e faqih is not something created by the Assembly of Experts. It is something that God has ordained," which clashed with comments such as, "our intention is not that religious leaders should themselves administer the state," made before the victory of the revolution.
The Assembly of Experts for Constitution is not to be confused with the later Assembly of Experts of the Leadership, which is a body created by the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Iran to elect and supervise Iran's Supreme Leader.
References & notes
- Bakhash, Reign of the Ayatollah's (1984) p.83
- Assembly of Experts
- History of Iran: Iran after the victory of 1979's Revolution
- Bakhash, Reign of the Ayatollah's (1984) p.81
- Schirazi, Constitution of Iran (1997) p.31-32
- Keddie, Modern Iran (2003) p.247
- Schirazi, Constitution of Iran (1997) p.24-48
- International Herald Tribune, 24, October 1979
- from Le Monde newspaper October 25, 1978, "in one of his last interviews before leaving Paris," p.14 of The Last Revolution by Robin Wright, c2000) (source: Benard and Khalilzad, The Government of God)