| 28 November 2023, Tuesday |

In landmark ruling, Iran’s Constitutional Council allows top military commanders to run for president

Under a set of new, specifically-defined qualifications, top military commanders in Iran are now allowed to run for president, and a long-running public debate about whether or not men of the military should be able to contest presidential elections has been effectively settled.

Iran’s Constitutional Council, which interprets the Constitution and vets candidates’ qualifications based on those interpretations for general elections, announced on Wednesday that earlier, broadly-worded criteria had now been clarified in specific detail.

One criterion says “ministers, provincial governors, mayors of cities with a population of above two million, [and] top commanders of the Armed Forces with the status of major general and higher” can now register for candidacy.

Formerly, the Council had to interpret a rather broadly-worded Constitutional article on the qualifications of president on a case-by-case basis for each nominee.

The new specific criterion ends a debate that had been unfolding publicly for years about whether military men should be authorized to run for an inherently civilian office. Since the Constitution does not directly address the issue, the two sides of the debate both had ammo at their disposal. Opponents argued that officers should remain in the barracks and leave the office of the presidency to civilians. Proponents pointed to the managerial skills of distinguished officers and said they could run safely by resigning from their military posts first.

It was not immediately clear, however, whether the new interpretation addressed another public debate — about the gender of potential candidates. While laying out the broad qualifications of president, the Iranian Constitution stipulates that the individual be, among other things, a political and religious rajol. The word is borrowed from Arabic and literally translates as “man.” Some Constitutional scholars argue that it should not be taken literally and that a woman of high political status and/or background should be considered “a political rajol” as well and thus be entitled to run for president.

Iran is preparing to hold its 13th presidential election since the 1979 Islamic Revolution on June 18. Hopefuls will be able to register as early as next week.