In Iran, the supreme leader’s absolute power over the government emanates not from the people, but rather from the divine authority of the Twelfth (or Hidden) Imam. Elections are thus mere administrative procedures whose legitimacy depends upon the pre-election vetting of the candidates and the postelection approval of the results by the unelected, cleric-dominated Council of Guardians. Even so, it is clear that the civil-rights movement put its mark on the content of the 2009 presidential campaign and the rhetoric of the candidates. And while the movement may have miscalculated in assuming that some degree of popular sovereignty—waiting to be activated by the voting masses—lay dormant in the 1979 Constitution, the regime has nevertheless remained unable to usurp popular legitimacy.
Iran in Ferment: Civil Society’s Choice
Issue Date October 2009
Page Numbers 16-20