Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Head of Assembly of Experts Mahdavi-Kani in coma

With the Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani reportedly in a coma following a heart attack, a new head of the Assembly of Experts will likely have to be selected at some point in the near future. 

The Assembly of Experts is a body of Mujtahids that are responsible for electing and removing the Supreme Leader. As I have written before, Iran’s governmental structure is complicated at best, and while in theory this group has these powers, there is virtually no chance of them removing the Supreme Leader at any point (and even if they wanted to, the Supreme Leader has other powers, including complete control of the judiciary and armed forces, which would make this near impossible). That being said, they do have the authority to select the next Supreme Leader when the time comes. 

The chairmanship of this group is of particular importance. Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani had been the chairman prior to his decision to express some support for the Green Movement of 2009, but was forced out and replaced by Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani. Mahdavi-Kani is less hardline than some of the alternatives so this was actually seen as a minor victory for Rafsanjani who stood to lose a lot more. 

Rafsanjani’s family has been heavily persecuted by the state as well as his domestic rivals which I have also written about in the past, and I would be very surprised if Rafsanjani was reinstated. And even though the Supreme Leader recently delegated additional constitutional powers to the body which Rafsanjani is still the chair of (the Expediency Council), it seems unlikely that there would be another significant move to benefit Rafsanjani. Khamenei and Rafsanjani are still rivals and the Supreme Leader does not want to empower him.

UPDATE 1: A list of folks who have reportedly visited the Ayatollah include the Supreme Leader, the President, the head of the Basij, Khomeini's grandson and others.

UPDATE 2: Ahmed Khatami, the hardline cleric evidently cancelled the upcoming elections to replace Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani. Ayatollah Rafsanjani was a (the?) favorite to replace the comatose Mahdavi-Kani, despite habitual and continuing persecution against Rafsanjani and his family from regime insiders.

UPDATE 3: Ayatollah Mahdavi-Kani has died according to multiple sources (PressTVFars etc). It is unclear what steps will be taken to replace him, if the acting chairman (Shahroudi) will be promoted, or if there will be elections. 

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