After the Constitutional Movement and following strike by the Ulama (Muslim cleric) and people, the Mozaffareddinshah of the Qajar dynasty issued an order in August 1896, mandating the formation of a Consultative Assembly, consisting the elites, the princes, the Ulama, the Rich and the aristocrats, the ruling system, traders and unions, to hold consultations on state affairs and public interests.
Four days later, however, he had to issue another order and force the government to hold elections and form a parliament in a gesture to officially recognize the right of sovereignty of people from various walks of life. The first Legislative Majlis (Parliament) of Iran started work in 1942 with an address by Mozaffareddinshah. Majlis was held for 24 terms before the victory of the Islamic Revolution. Besides the legislative council in 1989, the Senate was also established and worked for seven terms until before the triumph of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The parliamentary system in the Islamic Republic of Iran
Alike other branches of power, parliaments share highly common duties in many countries. However, in certain countries like Iran, the parliament has much more extensive duties compared to parliaments in other parts of the world due to the type of public opinion towards parliament. Thats perhaps because of the fact that Iranian public opinion has always been concerned with excessive authority of the executive branch; therefore, many of the authorities and duties, distinguished for the executive branch in other countries, rest with the parliament from the standpoint of the Islamic Republic of Irans Constitution. So, according to the Islamic Republic of Irans Constitution, the legislative power in Irans political system comprises the Islamic Parliament and the Guardian Council of the Constitution.
A council to be known as the Guardian Council is to be constituted to safeguard Islamic laws and the Constitution and to verify the compatibility of legislation passed by the Islamic Parliament of Iran with them. Based on Article 91 of the Constitution, the Guardian Council will be composed of the following: Six jurists (fuqahã’), who are persons of integrity (‘ãdil) and well aware of the present needs and issues of the day and six lawyers who are Muslim, specializing in various fields of law. Half of the members will be elected by the Supreme Leader and another half by Parliament of Iran.
Based on Article 62 of the Constitution, Guardian Council is formed and established to check Majlis approvals in terms of their consistency with general guidelines and the Constitution. According to Article 62 of the Constitution, Majlis members are elected directly by the secret vote of the public. Based on Article 63 of the Constitution, the term of membership of the Islamic Parliament of Iran is four years. Elections for each term must take place before the end of the preceding term, so that the country is never left without a Parliament.
Based on Article 64 of the Constitution, the number of representatives of the Parliament of Iran shall be two hundred and seventy, and for every decade since the national referendum of 1368 H. Sh. (1987) it may, in consideration of human, political, geographic and other factors, be increased by a maximum of twenty.
The Zoroastrians and Jews will each elect one representative; Assyrian and Chaldean Christians will jointly elect one representative; and Armenian Christians in the north and the south will each elect one representative.
Duties and authorities of the Parliament
Regarding the duties of Parliament per the Constitution, and taking a comparative look at the position of parliaments in other countries and the boundaries and authorities and relation of the parliamentary system with other political institutions, one can reach a better and clearer understanding of the value and standpoint of the parliament in the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Therefore, based on the Iranian constitution, the Majlis has three different functions not seen at all or the least in other parliamentary systems in the meantime.
The first function: Legislative authority, like other parliaments in the world, in the specific sense of the word, testifies the same key point; Article 4 of the Constitution cites that all laws and regulations pertaining to civil, penal, financial, economic, administrative, cultural, military, political and other spheres must be based on Islamic criteria.
Article 71 of the Constitution also acknowledges to the status: The Parliament may pass laws in all issues, within the jurisdiction defined by the Constitution. Majlis authorities gained out of the standpoint in the Constitution are as follows:
*Passing and ratifying laws: Articles 4 and 71 of the Constitution
*Interpretation of ordinary laws: Article 73 of the Constitution
*Approval of all international treaties, protocols, contracts, and agreements: Article 77 of the Constitution
*Approval of direct recourse to popular votes: Article 59 of Constitution
Second standpoint of Majlis: Answering and commenting on demands of the Executive Branch. The Constitution comments on the points this way:
*Approval of imposition of certain restrictions: Article 79 of the Constitution
*Approving the taking or granting of loans or grants-in-aid, domestic or foreign: Article 80 of the Constitution
*The settlement of claims pertaining to public and State property, or the referral thereof for arbitration: Article 139 of the Constitution
*The employment of foreign experts is forbidden, except in cases of necessity and with the approval of the Parliament of Iran: Article 82 of the Constitution
*Deciding on the country’s frontiers: Article 78 of the Constitution
*Transfer of buildings and irreplaceable treasures: Article 83 of the Constitution
The third function of the Majlis is fulfilling the duties arising from representation in the sense of formation and official recognition of Majlis and its control and supervisory over the executive branch. Based on the Constitution, the duties are as follows:
*Giving vote of confidence to ministers: Articles 87 and 133 of the Constitution
*Raising question with ministers and the president: Article 88 of the Constitution
*Impeaching ministers and the President: Article 89 of the Constitution
*Investigating and examining all the affairs of the country: Article 76 of the Constitution
*Representatives comment on all domestic and international affairs: Articles 84 and 86 of the Constitution
*Investigating complaints concerning the performance of the Parliament, or the Executive, or the Judiciary: Article 90 of the Constitution
* Approving the credentials of its own members: Article 93 of the Constitution
*Electing lawyer members of the Guardian Council: Article 91 of the Constitution
Expediency Council and Irans parliamentary system
On certain occasions, Majlis devises laws with respect to general needs of the society that the Guardian Council may not approve due to their inconsistency with Islamic regulations or the Constitution.
The Majlis’s effort in solving social problems and the Guardian Councils effort to preserve the framework of religious rules and the Constitution, may end up in a condition when some of the needs of the society cannot be met in the course of referrals between Majlis and the Guardian Council. Hence, based on Article 112 of the Constitution, the State Expediency Council will meet by the order of the Supreme Leader to decide what is most expedient whenever the Guardian Council considers a bill approved by the Islamic Majlis of Iran to be contrary to the principles of the Sharí‘ah or the Constitution and the Parliament is unable to secure the satisfaction of the Guardian Council on the basis of national expediency. The State Expediency Council will also meet to consult on any issue referred to it by the Leader or related to its duties as mentioned in this Constitution.
Noting the function and status of the Parliament in the political system of the Islamic Republic of Iran, it can be concluded that contrary to many traditional and ruling systems worldwide, that merely focus on forming a consultative parliament, whose members are mainly appointed and only offer consultative and non-binding recommendations to the head of state (government), Islamic Republic of Irans Majlis is the most important and most fundamental democratic pillar, whose dissolution is impossible and is active under all circumstances.
History of Parliamentarism in Iran