The reformers; toward the conquest of the 10th majlis?

Tehran, 26 August, The Iran Project – Iranians will vote for the tenth parliamentary election since the founding of the Islamic Republic in February 26. The various political factions including the conservatives, reformers and the pro-government moderate forces have already launched a political campaign ahead of the February election, according to media outlets.

The emergence of the Union of Islamic Iran People party as a part of the reformist bloc is a highly notable development as the February election nears since it is suggestive of the reformists’ return to Iran’s politics.

The new party which mostly comprises the radical pro-reform elements and the former members of the suspended Islamic Participation Front (IPF) held its first congress in recent days. As a leading reformist group, IPF was founded in 1998 after the 1997 presidential election. It won the landslide victory in sixth legislative election in 2000, but later in 2004 lost the seats to the conservative camp and ultimately banned after the 2009 presidential election.

As a matter of fact, compare to other terms of Iran’s legislation, the sixth majlis (Iran’s parliament) characterized by a few unprecedented features. During the sixth term, the representative struggled to amend the press law and in response Ayatollah Khamenei, the Islamic Revolution leader, issued a decree to stop debating on the law amendment. The end of the term also coincided with the representatives’ strike to protest against the mass disqualification of the reformist major parties by the Guardians Council. Moreover, after the controversial presidential election in 2009, many reformist figures received prison sentences.

Given the fact that the conservatives have held the majority of seats since 2004, the distinct possibility is that the reformists lay the groundwork for return to mainstream politics and to win the votes again. Compare to the 2000 election, now they may have even stronger hand since after the Hashemi’s exclusion from the 2013 presidential ballot and Rouhani’s presidency; reformists and pro-Hashemi forces all have consolidated their power in a same reformist-moderate bloc.

To many observers, the President Rouhani’s remarks in a meeting of his administration with the governors of the provinces kicked off the election game. He laid down the challenge over the role of the Guardian Council in qualifying candidates, reiterating that the next parliament will embody the representatives from all factions. Although, the statement raised the reformists’ hope for increased participation in next term to reshape the Iranian domestic politics like in 2000, they are still somewhat concerned about the potential mass disqualification, the force which already marginalized them from Iran’s politics for more than a decade.

In six month to the majlis election, there are many speculations over the future political formation of the country’s top legislative body. In fact, the configuration of the forces, the game changing role of the Guardian Council due to the authority to vet the candidates and the overall complexity of the political situation in Iran make it totally uncertain what faction will gain the majority of seats in February election.