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Rafsanjani emphasizes importance of political parties

Ahead of the parliamentary elections, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani seeks the strengthening of political parties.
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Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani gives the opening speech during Iran's Assembly of Experts' biannual meeting in Tehran March 8, 2011. Rafsanjani lost his position on Tuesday as head of an important state clerical body after hardliners criticised him for being too close to the reformist opposition. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi (IRAN - Tags: POLITIC

In a meeting with the newly formed Reformist bloc, Union of Islamic Iran People Party, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani talked about his vision for the 2016 parliamentary elections and the important role of political parties. The issue is significant because one of the problems facing political groups in Iran is that since there are no official political parties, the various political factions and groups lack cohesion and often rely on charismatic figures to attract voters. With former President Mohammad Khatami politically sidelined and many of the radical Reformist figures imprisoned, the role of parties will be important in the upcoming elections, especially for those in the Reformist and moderate camps.

Using the Rouhani slogan of “moderation,” Rafsanjani said, “People — especially the youth and women, and particularly the educated — are prepared to enter the elections for institutionalizing moderation in the country.” He added, “This moment ... is the responsibility of all ... the parties and organizations ... to enter the elections [and] create another political epic in February ... which are important elections.” The term “political epic” was coined by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ahead of the Iranian New Year in March 2013 to promote a large turnout for the June presidential election.

Rafsanjani talked about the importance of political parties, saying that after the revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini supported and offered financial backing to the formation of the Islamic Republican Party. He added, “In all the years after the success of the revolution, it has always been the extremists who have been an obstacle in the growth of parties. They still aim to create obstacles, but the constitution and the elders of the state are opposed to this.”

The political fortunes of Rafsanjani have risen and fallen since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The former president and confidant of Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, was once and still is to many considered a pillar of the state. Under Presidents Khatami and later Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rafsanjani’s political influence began to wane. But the elder statesman who played a central role in President Hassan Rouhani’s election in 2013 seeks to continue having a say in the 2016 parliamentary elections.

And it seems that the strengthening of political parties is a goal of both Reformists and the so-called moderate camp. Rafsanjani’s comments were followed up by those of Gholam-Hossein Karbaschi, the secretary of the Executives of Construction Party, a political party founded by former members of Rafsanjani’s Cabinet. Karbaschi spoke with the Islamic Republic News Agency, which operates under the administration. Parts of the interview were picked up by Reformist media sympathetic to Rafsanjani’s and Karbaschi’s positions regarding the strengthening of political parties.

Karbaschi talked about the obstacles the Ahmadinejad administration created for political parties not in line with his administration’s policies. He said, “Democracy, without the presence of strong parties and organizations that have plans and solutions for the issues of the country and to monitor the performance of the administration, is not practical.”

On the role of his party in the upcoming elections, Karbaschi said, “I think all the forces who are sympathetic and have a moderate philosophy and can tolerate others and are on the same path of this administration should gather and use their resources and speak with the people.” Karbaschi added that they see themselves as a Reformist group and will try to present a united candidates list for the parliamentary elections.

On the previous presidential elections and Rouhani’s win, Karbaschi said, “It’s clear that if the Reformists and Rafsanjani had not come together, such an outcome would not have happened.”