The chairman of the powerful Guardians Council (GC) and the Assembly of Experts (AE), Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, says the hands of the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, should be kissed in gratitude for appointing Ebrahim Raeesi (Raeisi) as the head of the country's judiciary.
Jannati, 92, who represents Khamenei to the GC, added “Now, all enemies of the [Islamic] Revolution are alarmed by this appointment."
Based on the Islamic Republic's Constitution, the AE is responsible for overseeing the Supreme Leader's performance, but the opposition says its only concern is heaping praise on Khamenei.
Furthermore, while the GC is responsible for endorsing candidates seeking a seat in the AE, half of the GC members are directly appointed by Khamenei. Therefore, GC has always disqualified Khamenei’s critics from running in AE elections.
On the heels of his appointment as head of Iran’s Judiciary, Raeesi was elected March 12 as the first deputy chairman of the AE. Members of the assembly elected Raeesi as the first deputy-chairman with 43 out of 78 votes.
Former judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Amoli Larijani, who also ran for the position, failed to garner the majority of votes.
Raeesi, 58, is also the custodian and chairman of the Astan Quds Razavi, the organization that runs Iran's holiest Shi'ite religious sites.
Human Rights Watch and the U.S. State Department blasted his appointment to head the judiciary, saying that he was involved in the mass executions of political prisoners in the 1980s.
Observers say Raeesi's rise could strengthen the hard-line camp and weaken the moderates, led by President Hassan Rouhani.
Raeesi lost the presidential election in 2017 to the incumbent Hassan Rouhani.
The hard-line cleric has been mentioned among the possible successors to the 79-year-old Khamenei, who underwent prostate surgery in 2014 amid long-standing rumors that he has prostate cancer.