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On the road, Iran's Khamenei sets stage for a less democratic future

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"The current political system of the country is presidential, and the president is elected directly by the people. This is a good and effective system," Khamenei reassured another large crowd on Sunday. "But if one day, possibly in the distant future, it is felt that a parliamentary system is more suited for electing those responsible for the executive branch, then there would be no problems in making changes in the system."

From outside Iran, that might appear to be a subtle change.

But inside Iran, resurrection of the post of prime minister – which existed for the first decade of the revolution, until 1989 – would mark a further decline of democracy.

Such a decision would come in the context of the divisive six-year presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – and the violent aftermath of his fraudulent 2009 reelection – which has caused political mayhem, especially among conservatives.

It would also come as Mr. Ahmadinejad has mounted several challenges to Khamenei, and proven himself to be a gutsy street-fighter willing to damage the regime's reputation to preserve his own. His closest aides have been accused of sorcery and leading a "deviant current."

Khamenei's comments "reflect ... a nearly decade-long conservative, undemocratic trend in Iranian politics where political change has been engineered and managed," writes Reza Marashi, research director at the National Iranian American Council in Washington.

"Should Iran decide to eliminate the post of a directly elected president, the primary role of a reinstated premiership would be to execute the Supreme Leader's directives," Mr. Marashi writes on the Tehran Bureau website. "This was – and continues to be – what is expected from Ahmadinejad. His increasing intransigence has only sped up an otherwise steady moving process toward the domestic vision for Iran that many unelected officials hold: more Islamic than republican."

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