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The Faqih

Figure 9. Powers of the Faqih

The preamble to the Constitution vests supreme authority in the faqih. According to Article 5, the faqih is the just and pious jurist who is recognized by the majority of the people at any period as best qualified to lead the nation. In both the preamble and Article 107 of the Constitution, Khomeini is recognized as the first faqih. Articles 108 to 112 specify the qualifications and duties of the faqih. The duties include appointing the jurists to the Council of Guardians; the chief judges of the judicial branch; the chief of staff of the armed forces; the commander of the Pasdaran (Pasdaran-e Enghelab-e Islami, or Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, or Revolutionary Guards); the personal representatives of the faqih to the Supreme Defense Council; and the commanders of the army, air force, and navy, following their nomination by the Supreme Defense Council. The faqih also is authorized to approve candidates for presidential elections. In addition, he is empowered to dismiss a president who has been impeached by the Majlis or found by the Supreme Court to be negligent in his duties (see fig. 9).

Articles 5 and 107 of the Constitution also provide procedures for succession to the position of faqih. After Khomeini, the office of faqih is to pass to an equally qualified jurist. If a single religious leader with appropriate qualifications cannot be recognized consensually, religious experts elected by the people are to choose from among themselves three to five equally distinguished jurists who then will constitute a collective faqih, or Leadership Council.

In accordance with Article 107, an eighty-three-member Assembly of Experts was elected in December 1982 to choose a successor to Khomeini. Even before the first meeting of the Assembly of Experts in the spring of 1983, some influential members of the clergy had been trying to promote Ayatollah Hosain Ali Montazeri (born 1923), a former student of Khomeini, as successor to the office of faqih. As early as the fall of 1981, Khomeini himself had indicated in a speech that he considered Montazeri the best qualified to be faqih. Hojjatoleslam Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, who as of late 1987 had been the speaker of the Majlis since its formation in 1980, also supported Montazeri's succession. Rafsanjani, in fact, nominated him at the first deliberations of the Assembly of Experts, as well as at subsequent conventions in 1984 and 1985. At the third meeting, Montazeri was designated "deputy" rather than "successor," but this put him in line to be Khomeini's successor. Since November 1985, the press and government radio and television broadcasts have referred to Montazeri as the faqih-designate.

Data as of December 1987