Assembly of Experts
since 24 May 2016
First Deputy Chairman
since 12 March 2019
Second Deputy Chairman
since 13 March 2018
|Seats||88 (6 vacant)|
|Combatant Clergy Association|
Society of Seminary Teachers of Qom
Length of term
|Multi-seat districts: Plurality-at-large voting|
Single-seat districts: First-past-the-post voting
|26 February 2016|
|Assembly of Experts building, Tehran, Iran|
politics and government of
|Government of Islamic Republic of Iran|
The Assembly of Experts (Persian: ? , romanized: majles-e khobregân-e rahbari) —also translated as the Assembly of Experts of the Leadership or as the Council of Experts— is the deliberative body empowered to appoint and dismiss the Supreme Leader of Iran. All directly-elected members must first be vetted by the Guardian Council and approved by the Supreme Leader before gaining membership.
All candidates to the Assembly of Experts must be approved by the Guardian Council whose members are, in turn, appointed either directly or indirectly by the Supreme Leader. The Assembly consists of 88 Mujtahids that are elected (after approval by the Supreme Leader) from lists of thoroughly vetted candidates by direct public vote for eight-year terms. The number of members has ranged from 82 elected in 1982 to 88 elected in 2016. Current laws require the assembly to meet at least twice every six months.
The Assembly is by its nature judicial rather than theological. According to the Iranian Constitution, the assembly is in charge of supervising, dismissing and electing the Supreme Leader. In the event of his death, resignation or dismissal, the Experts take steps within the shortest possible time to appoint a new Leader. The Constitution states that if the Leader "becomes incapable of fulfilling his constitutional duties, or loses one of the qualifications mentioned in the Constitution, or it becomes known that he did not possess some of the qualifications initially, he will be dismissed." The assembly has never dismissed a sitting Supreme Leader, and as all of their meetings and notes are strictly confidential. The assembly has never been known to challenge or otherwise publicly oversee any of the Supreme Leader's decisions.
To choose the Supreme Leader, the Experts review qualified candidates and consult among themselves. According to the Constitution, the criteria of qualification for the office of the Supreme Leader include "Islamic scholarship, justice, piety, right political and social perspicacity, prudence, courage, administrative facilities and adequate capability for leadership." The jurist deemed as the most well-versed in Islamic regulations, in fiqh, or in political and social issues, most generally popular, or of other special prominence is chosen as Supreme Leader. Otherwise, in the absence of such a candidate, the Experts elect and declare one of their own as Supreme Leader.
The assembly gathers every six months. Activities of the assembly include compiling a list of those eligible to become Supreme Leader in the event of the current Supreme Leader's death, resignation, or dismissal. This is done by the 107/109 commission. Monitoring the current leader to make sure he continues to meet all the criteria listed in the constitution is done by the 111 commission. Members of the Assembly report to this commission about the issues concerning the current Supreme Leader, and the commission can then order an emergency meeting of the Assembly. If the commission denies this, the members can ask the entire plenary of the Assembly (86 members) for a vote, and if most of the members vote in favor, an emergency meeting will be scheduled to discuss the current Supreme Leader. The meetings, meeting notes, and reports of the Assembly are confidential and not made available to anyone outside the assembly, except for the sitting Supreme Leader.
The constitution does not specify requirements for candidacy for the Assembly of Experts, leaving the Assembly itself to put limits on who may run for membership. The assembly has passed laws to require all its members be experts in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), authorizing the Guardian Council to vet candidates for ijtihad proficiency using written and oral examinations. This law was challenged by the reformists, and their 2006 election campaign included changing this law to allow non-clerics into the assembly, and reforming the law that allows Guardian Council to vet candidates. Women (Mujtahidehs) are theoretically eligible to run for the Assembly of Experts and in 1998 nine women submitted their candidacy. The Guardian Council rejected them, arguing that they lacked qualifications in fiqh.
The first elections for the Assembly of Experts of the Leadership were held in December 1982 and the Assembly first convened in 1983. 76 of the total of 83 members were elected in the first round, the rest in the second. The full list of members and election results is available on the Princeton Iran Data Portal.
As a number of members died, by-elections for replacement candidates were held in April 1988.
In 1985, the Assembly chose Ayatollah Montazeri as the successor to Supreme Leader Grand Ayatollah Khomeini. But on Sunday, 26 March 1989 Khomeini dismissed him in a letter: "... you are no longer eligible to succeed me as the legitimate leader of the state." Following the death of Ruhollah Khomeini on 3 June 1989, the Assembly of Experts chose Ali Khamenei to be his successor as Supreme Leader in what proved to be a smooth transition. Initially, a council of three members, "Ali Meshkini, Mousavi Ardabili and Ali Khamenei", were proposed for Leadership. After rejection of a Leadership Council by the assembly, and lack of votes for Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Golpaygani, Khamenei became the Supreme Leader by two third of the votes.
The Second Assembly was also chaired by Ayatollah Ali Meshkini. The full list of members and election results is available on the Princeton Iran Data Portal. Sayed Mohammad Fagheh was one of the members from the province Neyriz Fars.
The 3rd assembly was again chaired by Ayatollah Ali Meshkini, deputied by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, and Ayatollah Ebrahim Amini. The scribes were former Minister of Intelligence Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi and Ahmad Khatami. The members according to each province were:
This section needs to be updated.September 2017)(
The election for the fourth assembly took place on 15 December 2006 and the Assembly first convened on 19 February 2007. In July 2007, chairman Ayatollah Meshkini died, and Ayatollah Rafsanjani was elected to succeed him. On 8 March 2011, Ayatollah Mohammad-Reza Mahdavi Kani replaced Ayatollah Rafsanjani as chairman. On 4 June 2014, Mahdavi Kani fell into a coma after suffering a heart attack and died on 21 October 2014. He was succeeded by Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi as acting chairman.
The term was intended to last for ten years, rather than the usual eight, due to the "election aggregation" plan of the government put in place to allow the government to run elections simultaneously for the Assembly of Experts and the Parliament, thereby economizing election administration costs.
The election of 88 members of the Fifth Assembly took place on 26 February 2016 alongside of the election for 290 members of the Iranian Majlis (parliament). Those elected will sit for a projected 8-year term. The new assembly was opened on 24 May 2016 and selected Ahmad Jannati as chairman of the Fifth Assembly.
The Assembly has never questioned the Supreme Leader. Due to Ali Khamenei's lengthy, unchallenged reign, many believe that the Assembly of Experts has become a ceremonial body without any real power. Iran's Chief Justice Sadeq Larijani, a Khamenei appointee, stated that it is illegal for the Assembly of Experts to supervise Khamenei.
There have been instances when the current Supreme Leader's public criticism of members of the Assembly of Experts was followed by their arrest and dismissal. For example, Khamenei publicly called member of the Assembly of Experts Ahmad Azari Qomi a traitor, resulting in Qomi's arrest and eventual dismissal from the Assembly of Experts. Another instance is when Khamenei indirectly called the late Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani a traitor for a statement he made causing Rafsanjani to retract it.Mehdi Karroubi, who has been under house arrest since 2011 without trial, by the direct order of Khamenei, said that "the Assembly of Experts, a council of elected clerics charged with electing, supervising and even disqualifying the Supreme Leader, has turned into a ceremonial council that only praises the Leader."