Evaluation of the Components of Authoritarianism in the Islamic Republic of Iran on the Basis of Linz’s Theory

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Associate Professor, Imam Khomeini Educational and Research Institute, Qom, Iran

2 A PhD Candidate, Imam Khomeini Educational and Research Institute, Qom, Iran



Various scholars in universities and research centers have conducted studies on the nature of political system of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI);  and some political experts consider the IRI as an authoritarian regime. In this article, we use the theory of Juan Jose Linz to assess the authoritarianism of the Islamic Republic, given that Linz was perhaps the first scholar to offer a coherent theory of authoritarianism based on his field studies of the contemporary political regimes. He also had looked at  the case of Iranian regime. Using the method of qualitative conceptual content analysis, we examine and evaluate the degree of adaptation of authoritarian components in Iran from the perspective of Linz. The hypothesis of this research is that Jose Linz’s theory  on the ternary components of authoritarianism is unable to explain the political structure of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The main goals of this study are twofold: a. to assess the place of the Islamic Republic in the classification of types of political regime; and b) to give an unbiased and appropriate answer to those who classify Iran’s regime in the category of authoritarian political entities. Few studies have critically examined the relationship between the Islamic Republic and authoritarianism.
The findings of this study show that the components of Linz's authoritarianism do not apply to the Islamic Republic. According to Linz, the components of authoritarianism are the concentration of power, limited political participation, and ideology. Political power in the Islamic Republic of Iran is distributed between the people and the Supreme Leader, who is able to exercise most of his powers with the help of natural or legal persons, or public entities. The leader must make decisions based on the interests of the people and in consultation with experts. The leader's decisions must be made in accordance with the law, but in case of an extraordinary situation (such as foreign invasion or other emergencies) he can have emergency but after the urgency has passed, he must act in accordance with the official provisions of law again. Limited participation in the Islamic Republic has been assessed on the basis of the strict supervision of the Guardian Council (GC) over elections by approving or disqualifying candidates, and claimed to be for the purpose of the allocation of sovereignty to a particular faction or group. This claim is incorrect, because sovereignty belongs to the people in the Constitution, and the GC and other bodies which oversee the elections have to work in accordance with the election law, and are not authorized to favor one faction or group over the others. The Guardian Council has been tasked with vetting of candidates through a qualification process to ensure that they have the requirement for qualification as enshrined in the Constitution (such as  loyalty to the Constitution and believe in Islam, and so on), and it has no veto power. The use of the indicator of ideological governance for the measurement of authoritarianism in the IRI also has two major drawbacks: the rejection of alternatives and the lack of a platform for individual talents to flourish. According to the second principle of the Constitution of the IRI, human dignity and freedom must be ensured through continuous ijtihad as well as the use of human knowledge and experience. Thus, the ground is prepared for the flourishing and diversity of individual talents. For example, in the preamble to the constitution, provisions are included to allow for the use of human experience to facilitate people's relationship to administrative obligations.  In the general policies of the Sixth Development Plan, the creation of e-government has been  prioritized to improve the quality of governance and cope with bureaucratic impediments. In the field of economic activities and fundamental freedoms, government officials and bureaucrats have been obliged to observe laws and regulations in various articles of the constitution, and other legal documents. The authors show the incompatibility of the Linz’s components of authoritarianism with the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and argue that the IRI has a mixed political system of government. They also claim that coordinated government has had a place in the history of political thought, and is philosophically justifiable. Co-governance (shared-governance) is the principle of collective authority and agency, and is a valuable counterpart to democracy.          


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