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Infighting Intensifies Among Iran Hardliners, Says Reformist Figure

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A prominent reformist in Iran says hardliners are “tearing each other apart” over financial gains after pushing reformists out of the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Ali Soufi, a minister and top-level official in reformist President Mohammad Khatami’s fist government (1997-2005) told Rouydad24 website that “There is an escalation in infighting over financial gains among Iran’s conservatives now that they do not have to worry about competing with reformists in the upcoming elections.”

He cited the recent scandal involving a $3.7 billion embezzlement in Iran’s tea industry as an example of this infighting. Soufi emphasized that conservatives have gained greater access to the country’s financial resources following their consolidation of power within the Iranian political system.

Soufi contended that such a situation often fosters financial corruption, as experienced during President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s administration. He further alleged that conservatives frequently disregard the law and exploit religious canon, Sharia, to evade it. Conservative groups compete to secure the largest share of the country’s resources by exposing each other’s activities.

Eighty percent of Iran’s economy is controlled by the government and entities linked with the clerical regime. This makes it possible for insiders to use political power for financial gains.

Politician Ali Soufi

Speaking about the elections, Soufi said that there is a war going on between the Raisi Administration and the security forces. The government aims to give control of parliament entirely to the ultraconservative party Paydari. A government monopolized by hardliners will lead to nothing other than treason and corruption, he said.

While some conservative activists have alleged that reformists have secretly prepared a list of candidates for the parliamentary election in March 2024, reformist figure Mahmoud Mirlohi has denied this claim. He argued that when former lawmakers such as reformist Massoud Pezeshkian and moderate conservative Ali Motahari have their qualifications as candidates rejected by the Interior Ministry, it seems absurd to suggest that reformists have prepared a candidate list.

Although the government may not want a high-turnout election, Iran’s Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi has stated that it is the United States that aims to dissuade Iranians from participating in the upcoming parliamentary elections. However, Vahidi did not explain how or why the United States would pursue such a plan.

On the ground, however, if there is any indication of Iranian reformists’ activity ahead of the elections, it must be among the centrists. Based on an analysis published by conservative Nameh News, the centrist Executives of Construction Party is likely to go its separate ways from other reformists and moderates who have been thinking of boycotting the elections. They did the same in the previous elections in 2021 but won only less than 2.5 percent of the votes, their critics have said.

Furthermore, developments within the far-left Unity of the Nation party suggest that some members have proposed replacing Azar Mansouri, the leader of the Reform Front, with a male politician who supports participating in the election, such as Behzad Nabavi. Other members in the front have denied any change in its leadership.