Last updated: 17 October, 2011

Iran leader opens debate on election of president

Iran’s media Monday buzzed with a debate started by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, over whether to one day scrap the public election of the chief of Iran’s government.

“If, in the distant future, we feel the parliament is better suited to choosing officials for the executive branch, we see nothing wrong with changing the status quo,” Khamenei said in a speech Sunday picked up by many newspapers.

He noted that “the current political system in our country is presidential and the president is elected directly by the people, which is a good and effective way.”

But Khamenei said that policies and established systems in Iran’s Islamic regime “may become ineffective and outdated, in which case there is nothing wrong with changing and revitalising them.”

The current head of Iran’s government is President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was appointed to a second term in 2009 with Khamenei’s support after controversial public elections that led to widespread unrest by protesters claiming poll fraud.

Ahmadinejad has in recent months been locked in a power struggle with the hardline conservatives who dominate Iran’s parliament and who claim stronger allegiance to the supreme leader.

Several reformist newspapers seized on Khamenei’s suggestion.

“A return of the post of prime minister possible in distant future,” was the headline written by one, Etemad.

The last time Iran had a prime minister was in 1989, when a constitutional reform abolished the position.

Shargh, another daily, headlined the possibility of “Changing the presidential regime to a parliamentary one.”

Iran’s next presidential elections are scheduled for 2013, following parliamentary elections that are to take place in 2012.

Under the country’s constitution, only Iran’s supreme leader can initiate a reform of the basic law, which then has to be submitted to a referendum.