Iran looking for Khamenei's successor

Iran's top assembly of clerics actively looking for the country's next Supreme Leader, former president Rafsanjani reveals.

Ben Ariel,

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Iran's top assembly of clerics has actively begun looking for a successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the International Business Times reported on Monday.

The council tasked with choosing the next leader has already begun compiling a list of potential candidates who would take over from Khamenei, according to the report.

The news about the hunt surfaced in public, breaking Iran’s tradition of keeping such affairs secret, after former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani spoke about the ongoing process.

"The assembly of experts will act when a new leader needs to be appointed. They are preparing for that now and are examining the options," Rafsanjani, a close ally of President Hassan Rouhani, was quoted as having told the ILNA news agency.

"They have appointed a group to list the qualified people that will be put to a vote [in the assembly] when an incident [such as Khamenei's death] happens," added Rafsanjani, who said that instead of a single Supreme Leader, the assembly of clerics can also choose "a council of leaders if needed".

Details of Khamenei’s health are normally kept under wraps in Iran, but in September of 2014 the Supreme Leader underwent successful prostate cancer surgery. At the time, the surgery and the media attention it received prompted speculations in Iran that Khamenei's health is deteriorating.

Last March, reports surfaced that Khamenei was urgently brought to a hospital in Tehran after several of his bodily systems had already failed. Subsequent reports said Khamenei had died, but he promptly made a public appearance in Tehran to dispel those rumors.

The Assembly of Experts for the Leadership, noted International Business Times, is a council of between 82 and 88 elected representatives, who have the power to choose and even dismiss the Supreme Leader of Iran. However, in practice, the body remains a rubber stamp organization of the ruling leader, who wields the highest authority in the country.

Members of the assembly are elected roughly once in 10 years and the next elections are scheduled to take place in February 2016.

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