Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei cast two votes this morning: one for parliament, and one for a powerful group of Islamic scholars called the Assembly of Experts.
These “experts” are supposed to supervise Khamenei’s leadership, and hold the Supreme Leader accountable.
The experts have never done that in the past, but millions of Iranians who are voting today hope their votes can help reform the system.
Like any authoritarian ruler, Khamenei doesn’t think he needs supervision, and has already benefitted from the vicious circle of power in Iran.
Khamenei uses his ultimate ally and servant--Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati--to keep his supreme leadership absolute.
Jannati is a Friday prayer leader in Tehran, appointed by Khamenei.
He is also secretary of the Guardian Council, Iran’s most powerful supervisory body.
Jannati is famous for his histrionic sermons, during which he calls reformists “seditious,” “decadent,” and “anti-revolutionary.”
The 89 year-old Ayatollah often cries and begs Iran’s security forces to punish anyone who challenges the Supreme Leader.
And, as secretary of the Guardian Council, Jannati dictates who can run in elections.
In the last few months, the Council’s agents across Iran have disqualified any candidate who could potentially question Khamenei’s absolute rule.
The council even disqualified Hassan Khomeini, seen in this photo exchanging pleasantries with Jannati.
Hassan is the grandson of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, Iran’s original Supreme Leader.
The reason for the mass disqualifications is that Khamenei and Jannati want to prevent any attempts to reform the system.
They rightly believe that reforms in Iran would curb the power of the Supreme Leader.
In order to survive, Khamenei and Jannati need their subservient conservative representatives to dominate the Assembly of Experts.
As Secretary of the Guardian Council, Jannati maintains this vicious circle of power in Iran.
The Council helps Khamenei to keep hold of power, and eliminate his rivals.
It works like this:
The Guardian Council has twelve members: six clerics and six legal experts.
The Leader directly chooses the six clerics.
The head of Iran’s judiciary, who is also chosen by the Leader, nominates the six legal scholars.
Jannati, as secretary, is the most important member of the Council.
The Council vets and disqualifies candidates on Khamenei’s behalf.
The vetted candidates are the only ones who can run for the presidency, the parliament, and--most important of all--the Assembly of Experts.
If you’re confused, that is the whole point.
Khamenei chooses the very people who are supposed to supervise him.
When Jannati voted for himself and other conservatives loyal to Khamenei this morning--he knew that none of the candidates would seriously challenge the supreme leader.
Even so, he hopes the supreme leader’s most loyal servants will be elected.
But millions of Iranians went to the polls today hoping to reform Iran one step at a time--and make Khamenei’s leadership a little less supreme.