Referring to the elimination of the post of prime minister in the last months of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's life, Khamenei said, "Our political system is based on a presidency, and the president is elected by the direct vote of the people, which is a good and effective system. But if in the near or distant future it seems that a parliamentary system is better for selecting the officials of the executive branch, there will be no problem in changing the present system."This comes two weeks after Majlis deputy Hamid Reza Katouzian hinted of eliminating the presidency and replacing it with a prime minister elected from the parliamentary body. With Ahmadinejad's wings all but clipped, all eyes are shifting to the 2012 Majlis elections. Memories of Iran's last election are surely still fresh in the Iranian public's mind, and it remains to be seen how the perceived futility (and fear) of going out to the polls will affect turnout (assuming that reformists are even able to field candidates and avoid a boycott). The ruling class, for its part, has remained coy about how it is going resolve its current crisis of leadership, i.e. the Old Guard versus the New Right.
These same divisions were apparent in the decision to arrest a number of Ahmadinejad's aides and Mashaei's advisers, but to hold off on going after the two men directly dispute calls to do so. And most recently, the same fissures are likely what allowed an amateur plot against the Saudi ambassador to the United States to develop without first catching the attention of the Iranian leadership. There are indeed real rifts inside Iran, and as the country's economy continues to stagger under massive inflation, unemployment, and international sanctions, and as the Arab awakening enters its eleventh month and inches ever-closer to Iran, the stability of the regime has never looked more tenuous. Khamenei's words may eventually end up being hyperbole, but there should be no surprise if a desperate Tehran soon ends up taking drastic steps to try to ensure its political survival.
Khamenei's comments (in Farsi) are embedded below: