AP Explains: Voting, governance and clerical power in Iran

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iranians vote today for the next president of the Islamic Republic, but how does that elected leader fit into the country’s clerically managed government that approves candidates ultimately overseen by its supreme leader?

THE SUPREME LEADER’S POWER

At the heart of Iran’s complex power-sharing government created after its 1979 Islamic Revolution is the supreme leader, a position now held by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The supreme leader also serves as the country’s commander in chief over its military and the powerful Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force involved in the war in Syria and the battle against the Islamic State group militants in Iraq that also has vast economic holdings across Iran. An 88-member elected clerical panel called the Assembly of Experts appoints the supreme leader and can remove one as well, though that’s never happened.

THE PRESIDENT’S POWERS

Iranian presidents serve four-year terms. Iran’s president is subordinate to the supreme leader but still powerful with considerable influence over both domestic policy and foreign affairs. In Rouhani’s case, his administration negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which saw Iran limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. That accord was done with Khamenei’s blessing.