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Iran: Conservatives And Reformers Speak Of Coalitions

By Vahid Sepehri

The Coordinating Council of Revolutionary Forces, an umbrella organization of 15 conservative groups, is to be forged into a political party to support President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, "Sharq" reported on 6 October, adding that the party leader is Ali Larijani, currently Iran's ranking nuclear diplomat. Larijani was the council's chosen candidate for the June presidential elections.

Larijani is to succeed Ali Akbar Nateq Nuri as the Coordinating Council's chairman, "Sharq" reported, citing conservative politician Hamid Reza Taraqqi. Nateq Nuri, a former parliamentary speaker, has difficult relations with some council members and has ceased to attend its meetings, "Sharq" added. Deputy parliamentary speaker Mohammad Reza Bahonar is to assist Larijani with the new party.
Two Steps Forward, One Step Back
But in moves reminiscent of the council's previous disagreements in selecting its candidate for the June presidential election, conservatives proceeded to qualify or contradict that report in subsequent days. Taraqqi told ISNA on 7 October that Larijani accepted the "executive responsibility" for making unspecified changes to the council, as Nateq-Nuri had refused to, but the council does not plan to become a party. Bahonar told ISNA the council would review its weaknesses and strengths, and that changes were natural after an election, but added hat "nothing serious has happened and news will be gradually reported."
Islamic Coalition Party head Muhammad Nabi Habibi told ILNA on 7 October that Nateq-Nuri had not resigned as head of the Coordinating Council, "and nobody has been chosen as his successor." Conservative politician Habibullah Burbur told ILNA "there is no dispute between Larijani and Nateq-Nuri," and "until Nateq-Nuri resigns, Larijani will not accept being head of the Coordinating Council." Unity derived from shared principles and fundamental values is the oft-repeated mantra of conservatives, and that is what Burbur stressed. "Real fundamentalists, because of their belief in Islam, the revolution, the Imam [revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini] and religious government, never fall into discord," he said.
The Reformers
Meanwhile, the reformist Islamic Iran Participation Front is working to form a broad-based reformist front, "Aftab-i Yazd" reported on 6 October, citing member Said Hajjarian. He said party members have talked with centrist or reform politicians including Expediency Council Chairman Hashemi-Rafsanjani; Mehdi Karrubi; and Ghulamhussein Karbaschi, a former Tehran mayor and member of the Executives of Construction -- a party close to Hashemi-Rafsanjani. Hajjarian said contacts had also been made with the Islamic Coalition Party, which supports the government, but did not say why he thought it would be interested in joining a front including reformers. A wide reformist front is "necessary," Hajjarian said, but the likelihood of "solidarity" among divergent politicians is "very weak," unless "political pressures on them increase."
Guarded Pessimism
The comments of reformers in subsequent days seemed to corroborate a guarded pessimism and the characteristic honesty of reformers over their divisions. Mohsen Armin of the Islamic Revolution Mujahedin Organization told ILNA a front is "not possible" since one could not expect to include such divergent reformist politicians into a single, cohesive front, "even if it is the ideal." Reformers, he said, should expend their energies on fortifying their parties, and then work on coordinating the activities of those parties. He added there is no pivotal individual now around whom reformers could unite, while the new government seems inclined to let them state their views through affiliated media outlets.
Mohammad Reza Khabbaz of the Solidarity Party told Fars on 10 October that "effectively there will be no alliance or unity on the reformist front," if "radicals" persist in their "expectations." He may have been referring to more liberal reformers like the Participation Front or so-called national-religious activists, who are often marginalized by moderate reformers and pragmatists closer to the state. Liberal politician Ezzatollah Sahabi complained that national-religious activists are being excluded from the "Islamic revolution" and branded as "strangers" or political outsiders, ILNA reported on 11 October.
Mehdi Karrubi, the former parliamentary speaker, said on 11 October that consultations among reformers generally serve little purpose, since they talk without acting on their stated intentions, and thus drift further apart, "Aftab-i Yazd, reported the next day. The reality, he said, is that "reformers have ideological...interpretive, and sometimes fundamental differences, and I do not think these...will be resolved with meetings, suppers or statements," "Aftab-i Yazd" reported the next day. If, he said, as a first step, reformers can "stop damaging and weakening each other, and move in the same direction while engaging in healthy competition, then they can protect people's rights and legitimate liberties within the bounds of the constitution."

Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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