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Taliban unlikely to model its political system on Iran

It is unlikely that the Afghan model being devised by the hardline Sunni groups, will follow the Iranian system of democracy that finds its roots in the Twelver School of Shia Islam

The Taliban’s hybrid model of “governance,” with Hibatullah Akhundzada as the unelected “Supreme Leader” is likely to have only a superficial resemblance with the political model of Iran—a country which has developed its own system of “guided” democracy.

While details about the Afghan model under Taliban are yet to emerge, it is unlikely to echo the Iranian political contraption, devised under the guidance of the late Grand Ayatollah Hussein-Ali Montazeri. “Deep thinker” Montazeri, developed a system which fused key elements of the western democratic with the Twelver school of Shia Islam. As a result, he managed to forge a robust “theocratic democracy,” which would protect the Islamic Revolution that toppled a west-leaning monarchy, led by the Shah Reza Pahlavi, in 1979.

How was Montazeri’s model unique?

For starters both Iran’s parliament and the Presidency are freely elected by the people, though there have been accusations of rigging by unelected authorities as in 2009, when the conservative candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became President defeating- Mir-Hossein Mousavi, a crowd-pulling “green” party contender.

But there is a catch in the Iranian electoral system that makes it distinct from the western of Indian system of democracy, and has been the cause of considerable criticism. The rub lies in the “selection” of electoral candidates. Unlike the conventional democracies, the list of candidates who can contest elections is vetted by a unique institution called the Guardian Council. The Council is mainly appointed by the office of the Supreme Leader, who critics say, is an unelected leader, and lacks the legitimacy to wield enormous, if not unbridled power.

Supporters of the Iranian system, however contest this saying that this is a deliberate distortion generated by Tehran’s arch-enemies, who are blinded by the goal of rolling back the Islamic revolution, by denying it any legitimacy.

Backers of the system say that it is false to claim that the Supreme Leader is unelected and foisted from the top by Iran’s Mullahcracy.

They point out that the Supreme Leader is indeed elected by a unique Iranian institution called the Assembly of Experts.

After a thorough vetting by the Guardian Council, 88 Mujtahids are directly elected by popular vote for an eight-year term in the Assembly of Experts. The Assembly had 82 elected members in 1982, but the size increased on 88 in 2016. The Assembly meets at least four times a year.

The Assembly is tasked with dismissing and electing the Supreme Leader. According to the Iranian Constitution, if the Leader "becomes incapable of fulfilling his constitutional duties, or loses one of the qualifications mentioned in the Constitution, or it becomes known that he did not possess some of the qualifications initially, he will be dismissed."

However, the Assembly has not dismissed a sitting Supreme Leader during the course of its existence.

It is unlikely that the Afghan model being devised by the hard-line Sunni groups, will follow the Iranian system of democracy that finds its roots in the Twelver School of Shia Islam.  A new theocratic system with unique characteristics can therefore be expected to emerge.

Also Read: Taliban set to reveal new government amid internal power struggle