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Post-revolution Iran is uniquely based upon the contradictory principles of divine and popular sovereignty but with ultimate authority delegated to jurists. At the same time, the theocratic basis of clerical dominance is rooted within a pluralistic and decentralised theological tradition peculiar to the Shiite establishment. Despite the tutelary institutional arrangements engineered by the ruling clergy, elections have generated unexpected outcomes and unleashed power and policy shifts. Emphasising the political dynamic generated by elections, this paper examines the uncertainties stemming from electoral processes that have been constructed by conflicting electoral and theocratic principles. In developing the concept of electoral theocracy, the paper highlights the paradoxes underpinning the hybridity of Iran’s clerical and electoral authoritarian system of governance. These hybrid features have remained largely neglected in the literature on electoral authoritarian regimes.


Institute for Social Justice

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Journal Article

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