As Iranians debate their future after the IRI, it is important that they understand some key concepts about government – so they don’t get hoodwinked again due to their ignorance. In 2009, at the height of the so called ‘Green Movement’ – Iranians professed publicly for protection of their right to vote, and for democracy. Even today, we see interviews with opponents of the regime, and one by one they all profess to want “Democracy” in Iran. Even idiots like the MEK/Rajavists say they want “Democracy in Iran”. But the strange thing about all this is that most people when asked do not know the difference between A Democracy and A Republic. And in fact, I dare say, after a little education, most people will actually prefer a Republic to a Democracy – provided of course, that the Republic has some key safeguards against “power grabs” by some elite (which the IRI does not have). The single biggest failing of the current Iranian constitution is that it not only did not stop, but actually enabled the despotism of the theocrats (or religious jurists).
Unfortunately Iran did not have a Thomas Jefferson present, with any power or stature to inspire Iran’s constitutional writers. There are all kinds of speculation about this with statements made as follows: much like Iraq or Afghanistan, after the Revolution ‘foreign hands’ may have interfered in the writing of the constitution to ensure the rise of the theocrats. Regardless of the truth, Iranians will once again have an opportunity to correct this soon enough and it is vital that they understand some key concepts.
Democracy and Republic, are not only dissimilar but antithetical, reflecting the sharp contrast between (a) The Majority Unlimited, in a Democracy, lacking any legal safeguard of the rights of The Individual and The Minority, and (b) The Majority Limited, in a Republic under a written Constitution safeguarding the rights of The Individual and The Minority.
In a Democracy, The Individual, and any group of Individuals composing any Minority, have no protection against the unlimited power of The Majority. As Thomas Jefferson wrote so eloquently (he was by the way a very well read individual with a decent knowledge of history):
“All the powers of government, legislative, executive, judiciary, result to the legislative body. The concentrating these in the same hands is precisely the definition of despotic government. It will be no alleviation that these powers will be exercised by a plurality of hands, and not by a single one. 173 despots would surely be as oppressive as one. Let those who doubt it turn their eyes on the republic of Venice.”
A Republic, on the other hand, has a very different purpose and an entirely different form, or system, of government. Its purpose is to control The Majority strictly, as well as all others among the people, primarily to protect The Individual. In the American context, the writers believed that every Individual had God-given, unalienable rights and therefore for the protection of the rights of The Minority, of all minorities, and the liberties of people in general. Thus the definition of a Republic in the American sense is: a constitutionally limited government of the representative type, created by a written Constitution–adopted by the people and changeable (from its original meaning) by them only by its amendment–with its powers divided between three separate Branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Here the term “the people” means, of course, the electorate. NOTE: NONE OF THE BRANCHES REIGNS SUPREME; AND CAN NOT TYRANIZE THE NATION. THIS IS A KEY CONCEPT!
In the case of the Islamic Republic, the “Supreme Leader” is indeed Supreme, and controls key levers of government that have defacto given him power to determine who can stand for elective office, and even who goes to prison or is freed from prison by his directly serving military and guards – unilaterally. The Supreme Leader is indeed Supreme – and that is the flaw in IRI’s constitution. Iranians are suffering for it.