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State structure

Iran is an Islamic republic in which the political, social and economic system is based on Islam. Ayatollah Khomeini introduced the doctrine of the 'Velayat-e Faqih', the rule of the religious lawgiver, which was laid down in the constitution as belonging to the spiritual leader. This made the army, police and judiciary subordinate to the power of the Spiritual Leader. Also subordinate to the spiritual leader is the president, who is elected for four years.

Ministers are nominated by the elected president and must have the approval of parliament (Majlis). However, the power of this 291-seat parliament is otherwise limited. The nomination for parliament is decided by the Council of Guardians. The spiritual leader appoints half of the Council's members. Legislation passed by the parliament is assessed by the Expediency Council for its conformity with the interests of the Islamic Republic.

The state also has an Assembly of Experts, consisting of theologians, which, among other things, decides on the succession and supervises the functioning of the spiritual leader.


After the death of Ayatollah Khomeini, the revolutionary momentum in Iran slowly faded. A large part of the Iranian population did not consciously experience the Islamic Revolution. The desire for change was expressed for the first time when, in May 1997, a relatively moderate candidate by Iranian standards, Khatami, was elected president. This desire was emphasised again when President Khatami was re-elected for a second four-year term in June 2001 with 77% of the votes. The February 2000 parliamentary elections also resulted in a wide victory for the reformists. However, the parliamentary elections of February 2004, in which some 2,500 candidates were excluded by the unelected Council of Guardians, were a clear setback to the reform process. Representatives of a relatively new movement, the Abadgaran-e Iran-e Eslami ('Builders of an Islamic Iran') won the majority. The Abadgaran is an alliance of associations and parties working for the religious and egalitarian ideals of the Iranian revolution. The Abadgaran advance started with the local elections of February 2003. The election of the new President Ahmadinejad represents the major political breakthrough of this movement. On 15 December 2006, elections were held for the Council of Experts and local councils. Of the 495 people who wanted to stand for election to the Council of Experts, 164 were finally allowed to do so. The result was a victory for moderate conservatives (including former President Rafsanjani) and reformers.

The current political situation is described in the history section.


Iran's exports are dominated by oil. 80% of export revenues and 40% of government revenues come from the oil sector. In addition, Iran has the second largest gas reserves as well as the third largest oil reserves in the world.

Iran is a country with a relatively open trading tradition. The Iranian economy is relatively diversified, especially in the agricultural and industrial sectors. Compared to other countries in the region, the country has a well-developed private sector, mainly composed of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Unemployment is a major economic and social problem in Iran. Officially, the unemployment rate is around 11.8% (2017), but in reality it is around 20%. Every year, just under one million new people enter the labour market and unemployment is particularly high among young people and the call for better future prospects is loud.

Foreign investment remains at a low level, partly due to poor legislation. Foreign investment in the oil and gas sector is still limited because of the US sanctions against companies that invest more than USD 20 million in this sector.

Moreover, on 23 December 2006 the Security Council adopted Resolution 1737, which also contains certain (economic) sanctions. Recently, Iran has been moving slightly with its nuclear energy programme and sanctions are being eased. Some current economic facts are that the growth of the economy in 2011,2012 and 2013 was 4%,-1.9% and -1.5% respectively. In 2017, the economy grew by 3.7% and the GDP per capita was $20,100 in 2017. 18.7% of the population lives below the poverty line.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated April 2024
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