The publication of the Draft Text of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic on June 15 1979 marked a significant moment in the early institutional evolution of the post-revolutionary Iranian state. The Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) released what it considered to be an advanced version of the definitive fundamental charter of the nascent republican state order.
This paper will critically re-examine the publication of the draft text and its progressive evolution into the final charter of the Islamic Republic of Iran and take into account the role played by all revolutionary movements in this process. It will contend that, contrary to established academic readings of this historical episode, the publication of the draft text by the PRG was a pivotal moment in post-revolutionary state building and not a mere footnote in the rise to political power of the pro-Khomeini clergy.
While ultimately being subject to severe modifications by those of the revolutionary forces strictly loyal to Ayatollah Khomeini, which assumed control of the constitutional assembly that convened in the autumn of 1979 to approve the final text of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, the draft text and the numerous suggestions for its modification brought forward by civil society and secular political movements remained the cornerstone of the institutional configuration presented to the electorate through the referendum of December 1979. Pressed for time by the radicalisation of the Revolution induced by the ongoing US Embassy crisis and anxious to equip the nascent state order with an institutional configuration that would enable it to solidify its political side’s hold on power, the IRP-dominated constitutional assembly was unable or unwilling to go beyond an extension of the draft text which mainly accounted for the primacy of clerical-led institutions, such as the vali-i faqih and the Guardian Council, within the new state order.
The failure of the Khomeinist faction to firmly depart from the draft text is also interpreted, in this paper, as one of the key reasons leading to the lingering vagueness in the definition of the boundaries of institutional political power within the Islamic Republic. This viewpoint also provides new insight on the tension between republican and clerical visions of the contemporary Iranian state. The research will be grounded upon a vast set of primary sources and political literature of the time, a significant part of which have rarely been referenced previously.