CHECKS AND BALANCES IN IRAN
(Religious Apartheid or so-called Islamic Democracy)
Once I wrote about some issues with regards to the liberal doctrine that the legislative, executive, and judicial functions of government should be kept separate, and I noted that some political theorists of our times, such as the Futurist French author Bertrand De Jouvenel, had tried to address these issues.
The new mechanisms of checks and balances in countries like the United States, that have been pioneers of adhering to the doctrine of separation of power, show that this doctrine has a lot of room to evolve, to respond to the needs of 21st Century. In fact direct voting for ballot initiatives, in states such as California in the U.S., is a good example of such new mechanism for checks and balances.
Nonetheless, let me emphatically note that all this discussion was for advancement of this theory of separation of power, and by no means, would I repudiate this great theory. In fact, I think this theory is one of the most important advancements of political theory in history, as the result of political movement in England of 17th Century, and which was later clearly formulated by John Locke, to prevent abuse of power.
Here are the issues that have been raised:
The party affiliation of members of different branches of government. For example, in the U.S., a legislature, who is affiliated with the Democratic Party, feels closer to a President who is affiliated with the same party, than with another member of Congress.
There are more and more new institutions needed in modern governments, such as Federal Reserve Board, with its authority over interest rates, that are tough to group with a specific branch of government. The same way, the Supreme Court was hard to be classed with legislator in early days of the republic in the U.S., when one can hardly deny its judicial function as well.
The interaction of the various branches is still problematic. For example, the appointment of justices in the Supreme Court of the U.S. by the president, although the function of this body is more legislative and judicial.
But the story of Islamic Republic is a whole different story.
Islamic Republic started by placing the close associates of clergy, wearing civil suits, at the top of the *executive branch* of government, because Iranís executive branch of government hardly had any clergy in it at the time of the revolution, but as time passed, the clergy itself, not only took the Presidentís office, it more and more was put in various ministries of the executive branch, such as the ministry of Foreign Affairs. And all along, Vali-e Faghih, a clergy at the top of all the branches of government, has had extraordinary executive power of assigning many major executive posts, such as chiefs of police and intelligence and military.
On the other hand, since the inception of Islamic Republic, the legislative branch of power in Iran, has become basically a parliament of clergy and their close associates. Even another parliament, majles-e khobregAn, is a fully-clerical parliament, tasked with election of the Vali-e Faghih. And there is a Guardian Council (GC), and nothing is a law, if this body says it is not. In a way, Supreme Court of the U.S., has the same status, being a branch of legislature. But the difference is that Islamic Republicís GC is again fully made of the clergy.
There is hardly a unified executive, or a unified legislative branch of government in Iran. But this has hardly stopped the Islamic Republic from being a dictatorship, albeit a chaotic dictatorship.
One branch of government that has always been full of the clergy in its make-up, long before there was an Islamic Republic, has been the judicial function of Iranian government. The clergy and the laws of Islam have had a powerful strength in that function, and from first days of executions ordered by revolutionary courts, in unfair trials with hardly any attorney presence, the new judiciary of Islamic Republic, showed its enhanced injustice to the Iranian people and to the world.
One thing that has now been proven over and over again, in Iranís experience, is that separation of power, even if it has three independent consolidated or distributed executive, legislative, and judicial functions, does not mean democracy. The issue is not so much about independence of various functions of the government, as it is about the make-up of the government, in all its functional areas. In other words, regardless of how good this theory is applied, by itself, it cannot bring democracy to a state based on religious apartheid.
The advancements of the Lockean theory, and even its best forms today, cannot change a state of religious apartheid to a democracy. But such advancements are great mechanism to use, for running the state in the next government, after the Islamic Religious apartheid has been abolished.
Sam Ghandchi, Publisher
Aug 11, 2001
* The above article was first posted on Jebhe BB on Aug 11, 2001
P.S. An interesting point about the Supreme Court by Bertrand Russell:
"The country where Locke's principle of the division of powers has found its fullest application is the United States, where the President and Congress are wholly independent of each other, and the Supreme Court is independent of both. Inadvertently, the Constitution made the Supreme Court a branch of the legislature, since nothing is a law if the Supreme Court says it is not. The fact that its powers are nominally only interpretative in reality increases those powers, since it makes it difficult to criticize what are supposed to be purely legal decisions. It says a very great deal for the political sagacity of Americans that this Constitution has only once led to armed conflict."
Bertrand Russell, "A History of Western Philosophy" Page 640