Sharing royal, duties the imperial couple review
of Iran's armed forces
Iran was a constitutional hereditary monarchy, and Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Shahanshah of Iran, its ruling Sovereign and Head of State.
The Constitution described the Crown as a trust, confided, by the Grace of God, in the person of the Monarch, by the Iranian Nation. Among the functions specifically entrusted to the Monarch were the appointment and dismissal of ministers, the signing into of Parliamentary bills, supreme commander of the Armed Forces, the declaration of war and the conclusion of peace as well as the convening and dissolution of Parliament.
The executive organ of Government was headed by a Prime Minister, which was appointed by the Shahanshah with the approval of Parliament, which could remove him from office by a vote of no-confidence. The Prime Minister in practice chose his cabinet and formally presented his team to the Shahanshah for approval. The Cabinet was likewise responsible to Parliament, both collectively and individually. The legislative organ was bicameral, with a National Consultative Assembly, the Majlis, and a Senate, provided for by the 1906 Fundamental Law, but not in fact constituted until 1950. Finally, there was an independent judiciary, headed by a Minister of Justice with cabinet rank
Deputies of the 280-member Majlis were elected every four years by nation-wide male and female suffrage open to every individual (with certain specified exceptions) upon attaining the age of 20. Separate deputies were elected to represent the principal religious minorities, the Armenians, Assyrians, Jews and Zoroastrians. The Senate had 60 members, half of them popularly elected and half appointed by the Shahanshah.
Iran's Constitution remained basically unchanged from the one granted in 1906, after the Constitutional Revolution had put an end to autocratic rule. There was an important supplement in 1907 and amendments in 1925, 1949, 1957 and 1967. The last amendment, which designated the Empress or Shahbanou (the mother of the Crown Prince) Regent if, upon accession to the throne, the Crown Prince had not reached twenty years of age, was widely hailed as a symbolic recognition of the emancipation of women in modern Iran.
Bills were presented to Parliament by the Government, in the person of the responsible Minister or the Prime Minister, or by a member of the Majlis, provided in the latter case that the bill was supported by 15 deputies. Normally bills first passed through a committee stage before being voted on in the Lower House. If approved, bills were then debated in the Senate and after approval received the Imperial assent and became law. Legislation could have also also been initiated in the Senate, but the annual Budget and bills concerned purely with financial matters were voted on exclusively in the Lower House, although the Senate could make comments and suggestions. Parliament had also to approve any concessions, Government loans or disposal of State property.
Under the Constitution, Iran enjoyed a modern judicial system, headed by the Supreme Court, the highest court of appeal, presided over by a Chief Justice. It had eleven branches, each of which had four associate judges. In addition, there were courts of appeal in every province, and civil and criminal courts of first instance at the town and district levels. Finally, there were a civil service tribunal, a number ol courts dealing solely with religious matters, military courts, whose competence extended to civilians accused of anti-State activities, armed robbery and serious narcotics offences, and since the White Revolution the "Houses of Equity," through which minor offences and disputes were settled by courts of village elders, thus avoiding the inconvenience and expense of referring them to often distant town courts in the cities, "Arbitration Councils" fulfilled a similar function in settling minor disputes promptly and fairly.
While the Constitution and it amendments marked a great improvement in civil rights, the antiquated structure of society, particularly in rural areas, effectively blocked the advance of real democracy in Iran until the successful implementation of the Whire Rvolution in 1963. This mass movement, led by the Monarch, put an end to residual feudalistic practices and gave new vigour and effectiveness to the basic concept of the Constitution, which had always been held in the highest esteem.