Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Elections for Majlis

Conservatives Running Against Conservatives

By Nader Uskowi

There is a different feel and atmosphere surrounding the upcoming parliamentary elections set for 2 March. The reformists are not running, rather they are not allowed to run; with Green movement leaders and activists in prison, under house arrest, or disqualified to run. That leaves the conservatives to run against conservatives, a boring but a safe election for the ruling clerical establishment. I probably spoke too soon; this election might not be as safe for the establishment as it seems at the first glance – they are being challenged from within their own ranks.

The conservatives are bitterly divided into two major camps. The traditional conservatives that form the core of the country’s current establishment are organized under the banner of “United Principlist Front” (UPF), and led by people like Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, the chairman of the Assembly of Experts.

The other camp brings together the more radical fundamentalists organized under the banner of “Resistance Front” (RF) led by Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi.

Curiously, it is not the political platforms of the UPF and RF that are at the center of discourse in the country these days, but the degree of closeness of each of the conservative factions to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamene. It sounds odd, but Khamanie holds many powerful positions: Supreme Leader, Vali Faghih (Guardian of Islamic Jurisprudence), Marja Taghlid (Guide of the Shias), Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, Representative of the Shia’s Hidden Imam… Elections in countries with totalitarian characteristics are by nature full of oddities and ironies.

Mesbah Yazdi’s Resistance Front claims they have the support of Khamenei. Mesbah has brought together the former supporters of President Ahmadinejad who had parted ways with him after Ahmadinejad famously sat home for more than ten days last year in an ultimate show of defiance against Khamenei who had reinstated the minister of intelligence after being fired by Ahmadinejad. These former Ahmadinejad supporters also have strong objection to Ahmadinejad's selection and retaining of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie as his chief of staff and political confidant. They consider Mashaie as the leader of the “deviationist” movement, for espousing unorthodox policies. Among the more famous members of the RF are Morteza Agha Tehrani, Rohollah Hosseinian, Hamid Rasaie, Mehdi Kouchakzadeh, Ali Asghar Zaraie, and Fatemeh Alia, all members of the “Islamic Revolution Faction” in the current Majlis.

Mahdavi Kani’s UPF comprises of many old guards, including the Majlis leaders Ali Larijani and Mohammad Reza Bahonar and former foreign minister Manuchehr Mottaki (who was fired by Ahmadinejad while he was on an official tour of African countries.)

This is not to argue that all conservative politicians in today’s Iran neatly fall into one or the other grouping. For example, both the UPF and RF claim that the influential former foreign minister and now foreign policy advisor to the supreme leader, Ali Akbar Velayati, is on their side.

There are also three other less prominent groupings. Mashie Faction (“deviationists”); a handful of reformists who had supported the Green Movement of 2009 and who are not imprisoned or under house arrest or disbarred from political activities; and those dubbed “Silent Supporters,” the ones who did not actively oppose the Greens and could have some sympathy toward them.

The upcoming race is whether the Resistance Front could unseat the United Principlist Front as the dominant force in the next Majlis. Also interesting to watch is how many seats could be won by the Mashaie Faction, the “Silent Supporters,” and the few reformists who might still pass the pre-qualification hurdle. In the coming month, we will follow the Majlis elections closely.


Anonymous said...

What are the main (ideological) differences among these groups ?
Do they regard the nuclear question differently?

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:17 AM

They are all the same charlatans and they are sucking Iran's blood.

Anonymous said...

From Western view, the UPF and RF are essentially the same... in fact, with the core of Green Movement sidelined, the RF makes the UPF looks "liberating"- so the west will be dealing with either the same level of intransigent behavior, or worse.
- Fading are the hopes that progressive Iranian citizens could pull this off...
- if you think the military-industrial complex is controversial, wait until you see a military-radical cleric complex with instantaneous nuclear weapons breakout capacity. 2012, a year of major decisions for everyone.

Anonymous said...

The new leader has arrived......

Anonymous said...

It is factional competition for grabbing power and money, there are no platforms, no plans for changes, no discussion of future, no debates and as a result it will be one of the lowest participation rating in past 32 years...

Anonymous said...

sometimes i believe that they deliberately want to humiliate the (iranian) people

look at this farce:

Anonymous said...

They are all from the same mafia and all they care about is how to quickly line their own pockets.
We should use the cardboard cutout of that Haramzadeh as a dartboard.

Anonymous said...

its becoming like America.

either this or that... a rotation of the same people.

if this works for the US then it will for Iran.

Anonymous said...

This (Political Corruption) is not working for US as anyone can see...Also they vote for their Leader, We somehow get one selected for us for Life, and on top of it religion pay less of a role...

Anonymous said...

Nader, first you say:

"The reformists are not running, rather they are not allowed to run" and "That leaves the conservatives to run against conservatives".

But then you say:

"There are also three other less prominent groupings. Mashie Faction (“deviationists”); a handful of reformists who had supported the Green Movement of 2009 and... those dubbed “Silent Supporters,” the ones who did not actively oppose the Greens and could have some sympathy toward them."

Which is it? None or some?

Anonymous said...

you are not well informed.

Irans leader is chosen and confirmed twice per year.

If he does anything wrong he is put aside by ...

read for yourself .../(I know you give no sh..t if it does not fit into your ideology) so believe what you

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:22 AM

Is this the same fascist theocracy you are talking about?
It's a lot like NAZI Germany and Hitler,leader for life.Only force or death will remove these dictators period.
And pull the other one,who are you kidding? There is no democracy in Iran.
Looks like you are ill informed or work for the ideological department of the Islamic propaganda ministry.

Nader Uskowi said...

11:22 PM,

Reformists as an organized group will not produce a list of candidates, in contrast to UPF and RF who each will field their lists of candidates for different districts. The main reason for this is that their leaders and activists would not be allowed to run, as the government needs to pre-qualify all the candidates. However, few reformists, as individuals and running under independent label, might pass the pre-qualification hurdle and run in the elections.

As said in the main body of this post, these groupings (UPF, RF, Reformists, Mashaie Faction or “Silent Supporters”), are not established political parties, but coalitions, and at times loose coalitions, that have been formed for the elections, and as such we cannot treat each, including the reformists, into well-defined and rigid blocs. The analysis offered here of course takes takes these realities into account.

6:17 AM,

A detailed discussion of the differences of these groupings is beyond the limitation of comment section. I will be doing it in several posts during the moth.

Anonymous said...

At poster @5:22 AM

I know my constitution well. As I said The leader is not elected by the people and so far, no matter what happens in Iran the Leader remains in power for life. But I also know well how the members of مجلس خبرگان رهبری, (Assembly of Expert)are elected, and that we all know well is a farce. I also know well that how most of the constitution is ignored or better its laws are broken by all of the branches of government; i.e: from torture to privatization to public demonstration to the basic justice for all citizens. So lets not pretend we really have a constitution as when its laws are not to the officials and leaders benefit then it becomes just another piece of paper.

Anonymous said...

Bottom line:

With the progressive citizen unable to effectively participate in March elections, the regime stands, and sanctions fail.

Make preparations.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely wrong conclusion. The regime can only fail from within the country. Any Foreign intervention can and will make the regime stronger.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Nader. I'm looking forward to a more detailed post on your election coverage.

BTW: Any endorsement for the Tehran region?