Articles 62 through 90 of the Constitution of 1979 invest legislative power in the Islamic Consultative Assembly, the parliament, or Majlis. Deputies are elected by direct, secret ballot once every four years. Each deputy represents a geographic constituency, and every person sixteen years of age and older from a given constituency votes for one representative. The Majlis cannot be dissolved: according to Article 63, "elections of each session should be held before the expiration of the previous session, so that the country may never remain without an assembly." Article 64 establishes the number of representatives at 270, but it also provides for adding one more deputy, at 10-year intervals, for each constituency population increase of 150,000. Five of the 270 seats are reserved for the non-Muslim religious minorities: one each for Assyrian Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians, and two for Armenian Christians.
The Constitution permits the Majlis to draft its own regulations pertaining to the election of a speaker and other officers, the formation of committees, and the holding of hearings. When the first Majlis convened in the summer of 1980, the deputies voted to have annual elections for the position of speaker. Rafsanjani was elected as speaker of the first Majlis; he was reelected six times through the beginning of 1987. The speaker is assisted by deputy speakers and the chairmen of various committees.
The Majlis not only has the responsibility of approving the prime minister and cabinet members but also has the right to question any individual minister or anyone from the government as a whole about policies. Articles 88 and 89 require ministers to appear before the Majlis within ten days to respond to a request for interpellation. If the deputies are dissatisfied with the information obtained during such questioning, they may request the Majlis to schedule a confidence vote on the performance of a minister or the government.
Article 69 stipulates that Majlis sessions be open to the public, that regular deliberations may be broadcast over radio and television, and that minutes of all meetings be published. Since 1980 sessions of the Majlis have been broadcast regularly. The public airing of Majlis meetings has demonstrated that the assembly has been characterized by raucous debate. Economic policies, with the notable exception of oil policy, have been the most vigorously debated issues.
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