A major shift in a reformist party in Iran is likely to change the Islamic Republic's political landscape and help restore the reformists' status in the system.
The right-of-center reformist Executives of Construction Party in Iran has kicked out Gholamhosein Karbaschi, a moderate conservative politician who has been leading the party for a quarter of a century and replaced him with a more proreform figure, Hossein Marashi, the party's former spokesman.
Some have noted that Karbaschi knew he was going to be replaced in a Tuesday evening meeting of the party's central council, which he did not attend.
Hossein Marashi, the new leader of the Executives party. Undated
According to reformist daily Arman, the party's central council members decided unanimously to fire Karbaschi and replace him with Marashi, a relative of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani who was the founding father of the Executives of Construction when it was established in 1996. Marashi led the party's left wing throughout the past 25 years. The wing was identified with Rafsanjani's outspoken daughter Faezeh Hashemi who refused to take part in party meetings for several years in protest to Karbaschi's leadership.
Several key members of the party quit during the past few years, but the drop in membership and the rift among key members of the central council has been more visible in the past two years, as dissatisfaction with Karbaschi's handling of the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2020 and 2021 utterly annoyed even some loyal members. Mohammad Atrianfar, a key member said those who have left the party can easily return as the central council has not approved their resignation.
In the meantime, hardline news outlets such as the IRGC-linked Tasnim news agency have expressed support for Karbaschi and maintained their critical view of the party, Arman newspaper observed.
Faezeh Hashemi with supporters in Tehran. Undated
Meanwhile, a commentary in reformist daily Etemad characterized the development as a sign of the party moving to the left. In other words, the Executives of Construction is likely to be branded as an all-out reformist party.
According to Sharq newspaper, some of the inactive members including Akbar Torkan, a proreform figure with close ties to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, were present at the party's central council meeting. Some media outlets have taken this as a sign that the presence of trusted individuals like Torkan can strengthen the party's position within the ruling establishment. If Khamenei deicides, as he did before, that the country needs two political wings, then the Executives of Construction can act as the reformist wing. Currently, ultraconservatives dominate state institutions.
The meeting on Tuesday night gave the upper hand within the party to the Rafsanjani clan with Marashi as secretary general, Rafsanjani's son as the head of the central council and the high likelihood of Faezeh Hashemi's return to the forefront of the party's leadership.
According to the moderate website Rouydad24, under Karbaschi, during the past two years, the party lost its political impact in both local and national elections. The party's candidate for the presidential election, Abdolnaser Hemmati, who was supported by only part of the party, badly lost the election. To make the situation even worse for Karbaschi, the website quoted Atrianfar as having said that the party's central council did not meet during the past year or so, meaning that it was Karbaschi and not the party that nominated Hemmati.