Against the backdrop of several years of uprisings, including the recent six-month anti-regime protests, Iranians inside Iran and across the world all agree that the mullahs’ regime must go. But what kind of power structure should replace the mullahs’ rule?
Reza Pahlavi, the son of the ousted shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, has recently suggested that Iran should return to a monarchic structure. However, he knows that after the people overthrew his father’s rule in the 1979 revolution, Iran will not return to the tyranny of the Pahlavi dynasty. Therefore, he has suggested adopting an elective monarchy system. He argues that an elective monarchy would allow for a stable transition of power, as well as ensure that the monarch is chosen based on their qualifications and capabilities rather than simply by their lineage.
But the history of Iran and other countries has shown that there will not be a return to monarchy. And doing so can have very dangerous implications, including the re-establishment of tyranny.
Similarities between the shah and the mullahs’ supreme leader
A closer look shows that Pahlavi’s proposition is very similar to what the mullahs’ regime is doing. Under Pahlavi’s supposed elective monarchy system, a council or assembly would choose the monarch, often from a pool of deemed suitable candidates. This council could consist of members of the nobility, religious leaders, or other respected individuals within the society.
As we can see this council or assembly already exists in Iran. It is called the Assembly of experts. The Assembly of Experts is a body of 88 Islamic scholars and jurists who theoretically should be elected by the people every eight years. But in reality, they have been chosen by the regime’s supreme leader. Their primary responsibility is to appoint and oversee the Supreme Leader, who is the highest-ranking official in the country and holds ultimate power over all aspects of the government.
The Assembly of Experts has the power to remove the Supreme Leader if they believe he is no longer fit to serve. However, they never exercised this power and have never actually removed a Supreme Leader from power.
In practice, the Assembly of Experts is controlled by hardline clerics who are loyal to the Supreme Leader and support his vision for the country. This means that while the Assembly of Experts technically has the power to remove the Supreme Leader, it is unlikely that they would do so unless there was a significant shift in the political landscape of Iran. Therefore, the Assembly of Experts serves to reinforce the power of the Supreme Leader rather than to act as a check on his authority.
Proponents of selective monarchism argue that it can provide a balance between the stability of a monarchy and the accountability of democracy, as the monarch would be chosen by representatives of the people rather than being born into the role. Additionally, an elective monarchy could allow for a separation of powers between the monarch and the government, reducing the risk of absolute power being concentrated on a single individual.
Critics of the system argue that an elective monarchy could still lead to corruption and power struggles, as candidates may engage in political maneuvering and bribery to secure the throne, even serving as a symbolic figurehead. Additionally, it may be not easy to establish a fair and transparent process for selecting the monarch, which could undermine the system’s legitimacy.
This is something that Iran’s history has experienced before when Mohamad Reza Pahlavi, eliminated all the country’s parties and created a single-party regime fully under his control. And to date, Reza Pahlavi has never condemned his father’s deeds of destroying the foundation of democracy, which led to the rise of the mullahs’ regime.
Therefore, the people of Iran and all those who are fighting against the mullahs’ regime have the right to consider his proposition a conspiracy because even before the regime’s downfall and reaching power, Pahlavi’s main enmity is not with the regime but with all groups that oppose his monarchy.
In conclusion, selective monarchy and Velayat-e Faghih share many similarities in that they both involve a figurehead with powers, but only the source of power and level of their hegemony is different. They both can change easily into a dictatorship as we have witnessed over history. This is why protesters in Iran are chanting, “Death to the oppressor, be it the Shah or the supreme leader.”